You’ve taken your favorite family turkey recipe and made it your own. You’ve roasted it masterfully, and the meat is ready to fall away from the bones. Now what? You’re wondering… what is the butcher’s secret to carving the Thanksgiving turkey? I cut my turkey spatchcock style.
Rest your turkey for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size) after it reaches the desired temperature. I use two thermometers, one in the thickest part of the thigh (dark meat) and one in the thickest part of the breast (white meat). Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, away from the bone. A good rule is to pull the turkey out of the oven when the breast reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Resting allows for the juices of the turkey to redistribute and cool a bit in order to prepare for carving. Make sure you’re comfortable holding the bird. And when making slices, be careful. If it hasn’t rested and cooled long enough, you could burn yourself on the hot turkey juices!
When it’s time to carve the turkey, this butcher likes to turn the bird over and place the breast down with the back up on the cutting board, spatchcock style.
When it’s time to carve the turkey, this butcher likes to turn the bird over and place the breast down with the back up on the cutting board, spatchcock style. Identify the back (spine, ribs) of the turkey. Use a sharp knife to remove the back; you may also choose to use poultry shears. Once the back has been removed, apply pressure to the thighs on each side of the bird, pushing down and away. The joint will pop, and you will release the thigh from the pelvis.
How to cut your turkey like a butcher.
At this point, you should be able to identify the keel bone and some of the rib bones. Pull or use your knife to remove these bones. Once the bones have been removed, you will have access to the thighs, legs and breast. Start by removing the drumstick from the thigh (tibia and fibula from the femur). If cooked properly, you should be able to pull this joint apart with minimal knife work. You can either place the drumstick on your serving platter whole, or remove the dark meat and arrange on the platter. The drumstick contains bones and cartilage you will have to cut around, so I recommend leaving it whole. I love how pretty the drumsticks look on the serving platter, no matter which cooking method you decide to use. There’s always someone at the table who will appreciate the turkey leg!
“Now it’s time to slice the turkey thigh. You should be able to easily pull the bone out of the thigh. Slice this dark lovely turkey meat and place it on the serving platter, continuing to mimic the anatomy of the turkey.” – Kari Underly
Apply the same cutting techniques to both sides. You should now have both drumsticks and the thigh meat on your carving platter. It’s time for the breast. Keep the two lobes whole and slice across the grain. Place the sliced turkey breast on the serving platter so it resembles the look of the whole turkey. Keep a plate on the side for scraps and soup parts.
You are ready to serve!
Alternative Cut: Turkey breast, turkey thigh or whole turkey split
Boneless Alternative Cut: Boneless turkey breast or thigh
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