How to Carve a Turkey Like a Third-Generation Butcher
How many times a year do the majority of us actually carve a turkey? Probably not a whole lot. And yet somehow on The Big Day, we’re all supposed to be experts at it. Here’s where our expert, Theo Weening, comes in. He’s our Global Meat Buyer who grew up in his dad’s butcher shop and knows a thing or two about carving the bird. Follow his steps, set it up just how you want it in the kitchen and then present your platter proudly — like a pro.
1. Choose Your Tools
“It’s good to start with the right knife, or in my case, knives,” Theo says. “I use a boning knife and a slicing knife — the boning knife is for cutting the breast and thigh meat from the bone, the slicing knife is for slicing the breast. If you don’t have a boning knife, any smaller sharp knife will do.” You’ll also want a nice, large fork — it helps to steady the turkey.
2. Carve in the Kitchen
“People like to carve in front of everyone at the table, but it can be very difficult to get it right when you’re on stage like that,” Theo says. “I like to do my carving in the kitchen, arrange everything just how I want it and then bring the big beautiful platter out.”
3. Remove and Slice the Breast
Make sure you let the turkey rest for about 30 minutes before starting. “With the breast-side up, I start with the boning knife at the front of the breast, slicing down vertically between the breast meat and the ribs, moving the knife close along the ribs,” Theo says. This is where that stabilizing fork comes in — insert it firmly into the other side. “The vertical cut done, I slide the knife horizontally along the bottom of the breast all the way to the thigh and remove the whole breast. Then I lay it on a cutting board and, with the slicing knife, start slicing. Thin slices but not too thin.”
4. Separate Thighs, Drums and Wings
“All the joints of the cooked turkey should move pretty easily,” he says. “I move the drum back and forth — when I see where it starts separating from the thigh, that’s where I cut with my boning knife. Same thing with the thigh and the wing, move them back and forth and make your cut where you see separation occurring.”
5. Debone the Thighs
“Thigh meat is some of my favorite, especially boneless,” says Theo. Here’s what to do: Lay the thigh skin-side down and work your boning knife snug along the thigh bone, separating the meat from the bone as you move. Do this on both sides of the bone, then slide the knife under the bone and slice it away from the meat. Turn the boneless thigh back over, plumped up and beautiful.” Go ahead and slice this thigh meat to spread the love.
6. Build Your Serving Platter
At last, time to present your carved bird! “I put breast meat slices in the middle of the tray with the drumsticks together to one side and the thigh meat together on the other,” Theo recommends. “Then, at each end of the platter, I’ll put one wing.”
Then … eat it, of course.