This carving method, which also works for roast chicken, allows you to cut the turkey and assemble it attractively on a platter. Instead of thinly slicing the breast meat while it's on the turkey, you can separate the breast meat from the carcass in one large piece per side. Then, slice it into uniform pieces to the thickness that you choose.
Sharpen your carving knife, and practice your technique before Thanksgiving on a roast chicken to give yourself some confidence.
* Position the turkey on the cutting board with the breast side up and the legs facing toward you. With fork or tongs, secure the left side of the bird. Use the flat side of the knife to push the right leg to your right, away from the body of the bird, and down toward the cutting board. This will expose the joint between the leg and the body.
* Position the tip of your knife in the joint and cut through it firmly but smoothly. Turn the bird 180 degrees, so that the leg is away from you and repeat the process for the other leg, using the fork or tongs to steady the cut side of the bird.
* To separate the upper leg (or thigh) from the drumstick: Hold the piece upright, forming a V with the base of the cutting board. Slice through the bottom of the V, making sure that you cut through the natural separation at the joint. (Be sure you are cutting the joint, not the bone.) Repeat on the second leg. Set aside.
* With fork or tongs, secure the left side of the bird. Use the flat side of the knife to push the right wing to your right, away from the body of the bird, and down toward the cutting board, just as you did for the leg section. This will expose the joint between the wing and the body.
* Position the tip of your knife in the joint and cut through it firmly but smoothly. It may take several cuts. (Be sure you are cutting the joint, not the bone.) Turn the bird 180 degrees and repeat the process for the other wing.
* To cut the wings in half, hold the wing upright, forming a V with the base of the cutting board. Slice through the bottom of the V, making sure you cut through the natural separation at the joint, just as you did with the drumstick and thigh. Repeat on the second wing. Set aside.
* Removing the wishbone (the bone shaped like an upside down V found at the front of the bird, the end opposite the cavity) allows you to easily carve the meat from each side of the breast. Using your fingers or a small paring knife, gently probe the front of the bird to find the wishbone. Using the paring knife, cut along the wishbone, freeing it from the bird. Using your fingers, pull it away.
* With fork or tongs, secure the left side of the bird. Holding the knife in your right hand, insert the knife at the top right of the turkey, just off center of the breastbone. Slice downward, following the slope and pushing the breast meat away from the bird. It should come off in one piece. Set the breast meat aside. Repeat on the other side. Set the carcass aside and, if desired, reserve for stock. Slice each breast crosswise to the thickness you prefer, keeping the pieces close together.
* To remove the meat from the thigh sections, place the thigh flat-side down on a cutting board. Steady the thigh with the fork. With a knife, cut parallel to the bone and slice off the meat. Slice the thigh meat to the thickness you prefer. Place breast and thigh meat on the platter and surround with the leg and wing sections. Garnish as desired.
Dave Arnold, who teaches at L'Academie de Cuisine (www.lacademie.com), prepared this article as part of a Washington Post "Cooking Class" series in 1991.