Knowledge & Wisdom: How to Carve a Turkey
We all know how the story goes: A perfect-looking bird comes out of the oven, and a less-than-perfect-looking carved bird takes its place at the center of the table. Mishaps happen, even to someone like Christopher Kimball, one of the country’s foremost foodies. “Before I got married, I was invited to my future in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving, and they asked me to carve the bird,” he recalls. “My fiancée’s father gave me what amounted to this huge 10-inch butter knife. You could run it along your thumb, hard, and it wouldn’t cut. That didn’t work out too well.” We sat down with Kimball and got him to serve up his advice for successfully carving the holiday turkey.
Rest Stop: Let your cooked bird sit for 20 minutes, tented loosely in foil, so that the skin doesn’t get soggy. This lets the juices redistribute, preventing the meat from drying out.
Two’s a Charm: Use two large wooden cutting boards, with damp towels underneath, as your carving surface. Flipping the turkey onto something dry during carving prevents the breast meat from getting soggy.
Start Sharp: Kimball recommends using a flexible 6-inch boning knife to remove the wings, legs, and breasts; an 8-inch chef’s knife to separate the leg from the thigh; and an electric knife to slice the breast meat.
Wing It First: Bend wings back one at a time, cutting lightly. Once you see the joint, cut through it and remove the wing.
Legs Next: Grab a leg and pull it back and up as you cut. “If the turkey’s cooked properly, this will essentially pop the joint,” Kimball says. Remove the thigh and drumstick as one piece.
Fat Is Your Friend: When separating the thigh from the drumstick, remember there’s an eighth-of-an-inch line of fat running between the two, Kimball advises. Use it as a reference point for where to start cutting.
The Breast for Last: Remove each breast whole so that you can slice the meat easily. Cut slowly, parallel to the breastbone. “After an inch or two, you’ll have to curve that blade away from the bird,” Kimball notes, “because that’s the way the bone goes.”
For a library of episodes, visit: americastestkitchen.com. And for Yankee food editor Annie B. Copps’s recipes, hints, and timelines for hosting a stress-free holiday dinner, go to: YankeeMagazine.com/more