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How to Carve a Thanksgiving Turkey

How to Carve a Thanksgiving Turkey

Despite what you may see in a Norman Rockwell painting, carving a turkey whole at the table, while dramatic, will not yield the best results. The most efficient way to carve a turkey is to cut it into parts first. Then, with the breast off the bird, you can slice it across the grain for the most tender bite.

Before you start carving, be sure the cooked turkey has rested for at least 20 minutes (longer for a very large bird) so that its juices have a chance to redistribute (otherwise the bird will be dry). Make sure you have a sharp knife and a large, sturdy cutting board, ideally one with a trough to collect juices. (Otherwise, you may want to put the cutting board on a rimmed baking sheet or have lots of paper towels handy.)

The Legs

Start by cutting through the skin that connects the leg to the body (1). Pull the leg away from the body, then slice through the joint to separate the whole leg from the body. Once the leg is removed, locate the joint between the drumstick and the thigh and slice through that to separate the two pieces. If you like, remove the meat from the thigh bone (keep the skin intact) and slice the thigh crosswise into pieces.

The Wings

Use your knife to find where the wing is connected to the body (2), and slice there to separate the wings from the body. Remove and discard the wing tips, if necessary, then cut the wings into flats and drumettes at the joint, if you like.

The Breast

To make carving the breast easier, it helps to remove the wishbone. At the neck end opening, cut along the perimeter of the V-shaped wishbone (3) to expose it. Get a hold of the wishbone, with your finger, then pull firmly on it to release it from the breast. (Set it aside and let it dry to snap it later and make a wish.) Next, run your knife along one side of the breast bone, then make slices down against the rib cage until the breast half (4) comes free. Finally, slice the breast crosswise against the grain. Transfer all your beautifully cut pieces to a platter and serve!

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Traeger Thanksgiving Guide

Your wood-fired feast starts here. Discover turkey tips from the pros, browse wood-fired Thanksgiving recipes, find family fun, connect with our community, and more.

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