Carve a Turkey

Arguments or no arguments at Thanksgiving dinner, no one wants to see a poorly carved turkey presented at the table. So, we asked breast surgeon Amy Caton Polverini, M.D. for instructions about the proper procedure. It’s a delicate operation. The doctor says you’ll need these tools: sharp knife (boning knife, chef’s knife or carving knife), large cutting board with a well, carving fork, paper towels, rimmed baking sheet, and serving platter. —The Editor

Step 1 Prepare your station

Let the cooked turkey rest for at least 30 minutes. Position the turkey on the cutting board so that you are closest to the legs. Remove any trussing string on the legs.

Step 2 Remove the leg and thigh 

Cut the skin between the drumstick and body. Using the carving fork, pull leg out and away from the breast. The meat will begin to separate. Now use long sweeps with the end of the knife to help separate while continuing to pull away on the leg. This will expose the joint. Use the boning knife to cut through the joint and separate the leg from the body. Place the leg on a baking sheet and repeat with the opposite side. 

Step 3 Remove the breast

Make a long cut along the length of the breastbone. Continue to cut down until th breastbone is exposed. Use the carving fork to pull the breast away, separating the meat from the bones. Cut down along the ribs, following the curve with long strokes of the knife. The breast tissue will fall away until the wing joint is visualized. Separate the breast from the wing joint and remove. Place on the baking sheet and repeat with the other breast.

Step 4 Remove wings

You can remove the wings if you choose. Do this by pulling back on the wing and cutting at the joint. The wing will separate from the carcass.

Step 5 Separate drumstick and thigh

Turn the leg skin-side down on the cutting board. Use the knife to make a shallow cut between the drumstick and the thigh. Then, pull the drumstick and thigh apart to find the joint. Once the joint has been exposed, use your knife and divide.

Step 6 Carve thigh meat 

Using the boning knife, cut circumferentially around the thigh bone. Remove the thigh bone and then slice the thigh to your desired thickness.

Step 7 Carve breast meat

The breast should be positioned on the cutting board with the skin side upwards. Using a carving knife, carefully slice the breast at an angle, against the grain. You want to keep the skin on each slice, so use a very sharp knife for this part. Cut as thick or thin as you prefer. Repeat with the other breast.

Step 8 Plate and garnish

Amy Caton Polverini M.D. is a breast surgeon at the Huntington Health cancer center in Pasadena, California.

Lauren Tamaki is an artist based in Toronto and New York, whose clients include The Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed, Penguin UK, Harper’s Bazaar Germany and many others. Follow her @LaurenTamaki.