Carving the turkey is just as important as the recipe you choose. These chef tips and techniques will turn your bird into a Rockwellian centerpiece.
Once you’ve cooked the perfect turkey, the next step is carving it. The right tools and a little technique will make the job both easier and less intimidating—not only will your turkey look better, it’ll taste better, too.
Get Culinary Creative Director of the Made In Studio Rhoda Boone’s method for carving a Thanksgiving turkey below, plus a few essential carving tips from Evan LeRoy of Austin’s LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue.
Rhoda shares her fool-proof method for carving Thanksgiving turkeys like a professional, so you can plate up golden, juicy slices that look like they belong in a Norman Rockwell painting. To follow her method you’ll need a Carving Knife, a clean kitchen towel, a cutting board, and (optional) both chef and paring knives.
The first step begins while the turkey is still raw. After thawing and patting your bird dry—but before seasoning or dry brining—you’ll need to remove the wishbone from the raw turkey. This will make it much easier to remove the breasts and carve the turkey once it’s ready for the table.
After roasting your bird, let it rest for 30-40 minutes to let the juices reabsorb. Failure to do so will result in a dry and bland turkey.
The traditional way to plate up carved turkey is on a Serving Platter with dark thigh meat arranged in the center, flanked by white breast meat fanned around the perimeter.
Drumsticks, drumettes, and flats can then be arranged on top. Remind guests that dark meat comes from thighs and drumsticks, while wings and breast are all white meat.
Drama and showmanship aside, the best part of serving an entire roast bird is the ability to turn the carcass into a rich, flavorful broth or stock. Throw in a little carrot, celery, onion, wild rice or pearl barley, and shredded turkey meat and you’ve got a cozy (and delicious) way of using up your Thanksgiving leftovers.
Here, Chef LeRoy shares his time-tested tips for carving the perfect turkey this Thanksgiving.
Cutting meat with a wrong or a dull knife will result in uneven, jagged strips. For larger proteins like whole turkey, a heavy, elongated blade slices gently in a few quick strokes—Chef LeRoy prefers a sharp non-serrated knife.
“For something like carving turkey, the Carving Knife is perfect for the job,” says Chef LeRoy.
“I don’t think you can really carve a bird without using your hands to manipulate the pieces,” says Chef LeRoy. “It allows you to just get in there a little bit, and move things around a little bit more.”
While you could do this barehanded, you’ll likely find it a messy, slightly slippery experience. And importantly, gloves will protect your hands if the bird is hot to the touch.
However, the bird shouldn’t be too hot. According to Chef LeRoy, “If it’s too hot to hold in your gloved hand, then it’s too hot to cut.” Resting your turkey—30-40 minutes is ideal—is essential to getting clean slices that are juicy and tender instead of dry and tasteless.
“If you cut it when it's still hot, then steam is going to escape from the slices and you’ll end up with a drier bird," says Chef LeRoy.
Some people slice the breast directly from the bird, but to get those artfully arranged magazine-style slices, Chef LeRoy recommends removing the entire breast before slicing. “If you don't, you're going to leave a good amount of meat on the carcass,” says Chef LeRoy. “This way, you’re not going to leave anything on the bone.”
Most turkey is mediocre, leading many of us to believe it’s not worth the effort of multi day defrosting and hours-long roasting. Chef Grant Achatz disagrees, and recommends slathering your bird with herbed compound butter both on top of your bird and under the skin so it self-bastes while it cooks. TL;DR: This is not your grandmother’s turkey.