Carving & Serving Your Holiday Turkey

The Culinary Team at Sterno Products knows that carving a whole turkey is probably something you don't do more than a twice a year. To help de-stress and de-mess the deconstruction of this noble bird we've put together this handy guide that takes you through the process step-by-step.

Here's a fun fact (not so fun for turkeys): 88% of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation (NTF) eat turkey on Thanksgiving. 46 million turkeys are eaten on the last Thursday of November; 22 million on Christmas; and 19 million on Easter. According to the good people at the NTF, Americans will consume more than 730 million pounds of turkey in 2016.
Getting Organized...

Getting organized before you start cutting will make things much easier. Here's what you'll need to get your turkey ready to serve. We assume you'll have a crowd so we thought we'd also show you how to serve it at the ideal and safe temperature.

The foil pans, utensils, and chafing fuel cans are part of the Sterno Products Buffet Set. This set includes a complete disposable/recyclable chafer kit (including two cans of 2 hour ethanol fuel). We've also gathered a really sharp Chef's knife; a large cutting board (with drip trench); an instant-read thermometer; some seasonally appropriate fresh herbs; and the star of the show...your perfectly roasted turkey.

Most likely you'll be sitting down to your feast immediately after you've carved the turkey. Before you pick up that knife, let's get the chafing dish set up and ready to go so that you don't keep your guests waiting. You may be using several chafing dishes for sides, as well. The procedure shown below is the same. By the way, you can also use these chafing dishes for serving cold salads and beverages. Here's a quick video in case you're interested...

  • Place the wire rack in the spot it will be on your buffet (away from flammable objects-napkins, drapes, centerpieces, etc.).
  • Carefully open the chafing fuel cans and place in fuel holders.
  • Place water pan in wire rack.
  • Fill a pitcher with 2 quarts of very hot (not boiling) water.
  • Pour water into water pan.
  • Light the fuel.
  • If your chafing dish will be out of eyesight while your carving, make sure an adult is in the room to prevent an accidental fire.
  • Now go back into your kitchen and carve that turkey!

Note that we’re placing damp paper towels on the work surface and then placing the cutting board (drip trench facing up) on top of the paper towel. This will help that cutting board from moving around during carving.

Let's Do This...

Your fully cooked turkey is now ready to carve. The turkey you see here is a little under 12 pounds. We roasted this to an internal temperature of 165°F and let rest (out of the oven and loosely covered with foil) for 30 minutes.

With the breast facing up, place the bird on your cutting board.

Removing the wishbone is important; it will make removing the breasts much easier as you’ll see in a few steps. At the neck cavity, cut through the skin to make a v-shaped flap. The wishbone runs along the neck cavity. Take you knife and gently glide it along the bone on both sides. Now reach in and remove the wishbone.

Let’s move back to the other side of the bird and remove the legs. You can use a carving fork to steady the bird or a doubled-over paper towel, if needed. Cutting as close to the leg as you can, slice through the skin that connects the leg to the body.

Now things are going to get personal. Place your knife safely to the side. Using your hands, gently pull the leg away from the bird’s body until you hear/feel a slight ‘pop’.

At the joint, cut completely through and set aside.

Find the joint connecting the thigh and leg. Use knife to separate the thigh from the leg. Repeat process on other leg.

On to the wings. Take hold of one of the wings and pull it away from the turkey’s body. With your knife gently cut through the joint removing the wing. Repeat on other wing.

Time to carve the breast meat. Steady the breast with a carving fork or hand. In the center of the breast, cut along the breastbone. Using a combination of knife and hand, gently cut down the side of the rib cage, pulling the meat away from the ribs. Remove the whole breast. Repeat process on other breast.

Turn the just-removed breast skin-side up and slice at a slight angle into serving size portions. I like to serve the legs whole (there's always at least one Henry VIII wannabe in every group). For the thighs and wings I remove the skin and pull the meat from the bones like you would for pulled pork.

Here’s a suggestion for how to display and serve your culinary triumph...Enjoy!

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