Food & Drink

How to Carve a Turkey (& Other Last Minute Solutions)

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s to a tryptophan-filled night buoyed by warmth, family, and lots and lots to eat.


Scratching your head over bird weight and oven temperatures today? You’re not alone. Check out this turkey-roasting timetable for some general guidelines, but keep in mind that things will vary from oven to oven, along with x-factors including how often you open the oven and how moist the particular bird is. If you’re using a thermometer—either the kind you leave in while roasting or an instant-read—make sure the meat has reached a safe temperature of 165 degrees all over.

Timetable for Fresh Turkeys

8 to 12 pounds 2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4½ to 5 hours
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3½ hours
12 to 14 pounds 3½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4½ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4½ to 5 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4¾ to 5¼ hours

How to Carve a Turkey

Whether you’re carving behind the scenes or at the table, it’s essential to have the right tools. Use a very sharp long, thin, slightly flexible kitchen knife and a long-handled meat fork. Do your carving on a carving board with a well to catch the juices, or on a cutting board set inside a large serving platter for the same purpose. Have a damp dishcloth nearby to wipe your hands or the knife if things are getting slippery. If you carve the meat at the table, have a stack of warm plates ready and take requests for white meat, a wing, and so on, as you go. If you’re plating the meat for a buffet, group the dark meat and white meat separately so your guests can clearly distinguish them.

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  1. Remove the wings by inserting the tip of the knife into the joint and then slicing through. The joint should be pretty loose.
  2. Start slicing the breast at the outermost part, keeping the skin attached to the slice you are cutting. Use the fork to help lift the slices and transfer them to the platter. An alternative method, usually saved for kitchen carving, is to run your knife straight down against the breastbone, removing the entire breast. Lay it on the board and cut across the grain, as thin or as thick as you like it, keeping the slices together and the breast intact. Then slide the knife under the sliced breast and transfer to the platter.
  3. Gently pull the entire leg and thigh away from the body and, with your knife, find the hip joint. Separate the joint by working the knife in between the two parts. You don’t need to cut through any bones.
  4. Do the same thing to separate the drumstick from the thigh: find the joint and separate the two parts, keeping the skin intact.

How to Carve a Turkey

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