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The Post's deputy Food editor Bonnie S. Benwick tells you everything you need to know about carving a roast turkey -- from the type of knife you use to some tricks for keeping it stable. (Jason Aldag, Julio C. Negron and Jayne W. Orenstein/The Washington Post)

No need to fear — or dig out the electric knife of yesteryear. If you’ve ever dispatched a rotisserie chicken into individual pieces for serving, that muscle memory will help you carve a roast turkey for Thanksgiving.

Here’s the drill:

1. Perform the deed in the kitchen, not at the table. Have a platter at hand; as you work, arrange the turkey pieces on it.

2. Use a sharp, somewhat flexible knife that feels comfortable in your hand. A 5 1/2-inch or 7-inch fillet knife works well. It’s better to use a smooth blade than a serrated one, because the latter can too easily shred the white meat.

3. Seat the bird on something that will keep it stable, such as a dish towel on a cutting board.

4. Detach the leg/thigh quarter on one side. Invert it; find the ball joint and start to pull the leg and thigh areas apart. Cut open near the joint, pulling, till you hear the “pop” of that joint being released. Cut the thigh meat into a few thick slices. Repeat with the other leg/thigh quarter.

5. Detach the breast meat on one side. Make stroking cuts as close to the center breast bone as possible, until you reach the wider part of the rib cage. Look at the side of the breast; make a long cut, parallel to the cutting board, reaching all the way to the rib cage. This will allow you to remove the breast half in a single piece. Place it on the cutting board, skin side up; slice thick or thin. Repeat with the other side of the breast.

6. Detach the two-part wing section on one side. Invert it; find the connecting joint between flat wing and junior drumette; cut in the same fashion you separated the leg from the thigh.

7. Invert the carcass; find the “oysters” — sections of dark meat nestled on either side near where the thighs were detached. Cut around close to the bone to remove each one. Trim and cut other dark meat and skin that’s now accessible on the underside of the carcass.

8. Cover the carcass loosely with foil (to leave for later picking), or place in a large zip-top bag and refrigerate for making soup.

9. If you’re not serving the bird right away, cover the platter loosely with foil.

TIP: If the slices of breast meat seem dry, dip each one in a pot of hot turkey or chicken broth just before serving.


How to get from whole bird to stunning platter? To start, do the carving away from the table. For more tips, see the accompanying video. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

More Thanksgiving FAQs:

How can I make gravy in advance?

Should I roast a turkey breast for a smaller dinner?

Should I brine my bird?

How big a turkey should I buy?

When should I buy a turkey, and how do I store it?

How do I make the perfect pie crust?