There are two ways to slice up your Christmas bird. The first, more traditional, method is done at the table, in front of your guests. The other is easy for beginners and can be done behind the scenes, before you bring the meat to the table.
BEFORE YOU CARVE
When your turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven and insert a long wooden spoon into the cavity of the bird – use this to pick up the turkey and angle it over the roasting tray to let all the juices drain out. These juices will then form the base of your gravy.
| More: Jamie’s ultimate roasting guide
Transfer the turkey to a nice big platter. Get a big piece of tin foil, fold it in half and wrap it around the turkey. Don’t seal it around the bottom of the platter; you want it to breathe a little bit. Cover the foil with two or three tea towels. Let the turkey rest for at least an hour and a half. This is the time to get your roast vegetables and potatoes on the go, and to finish off your gravy.
1. HOW TO CARVE BEHIND THE SCENES
Carving the bird before you take it to the table gives really good results every single time. We show you each step here. Alternatively, scroll to the bottom of the feature for tips on how to carve at the table.
- First up, you want to get one of the wings off. Because your bird has rested, the wing should pull away from the body easily, or you can cut through the joint where it meets the carcass.
- Slice down where the legs meet the body, and take the legs off in one piece – don’t separate the drumstick at this stage.
- Feel along the turkey’s backbone and slice down the side of it, to remove the whole breast in a single piece. Lift the breast onto a platter or chopping board.
- Take the breast off the other side in one piece.
- Place all your turkey joints on a board or platter.
- Turn the carcass over to slice off any dark meat from the underside.
- Place the breast skin-side up on a platter or chopping board, then continue along, carving off thick slices. The fact that there’s no bone means that even the most novice of cooks can carve like a chef!
- Separate the drumstick from the thigh, and carve the dark thigh meat.
- Transfer the dark and white meat to a platter, then pour over a little gravy so it doesn’t dry out.
- Take your platter to the table and let everyone help themselves. Easy!
2. HOW TO CARVE AT THE TABLE
Remove the tea towels and foil from the turkey and take it to the table on the serving platter. Bask in your family’s admiration at your perfectly cooked bird!
- Take the wings off in the same way as the previous method. Put them onto the platter.
- Cut along where the leg is attached to the breast. Carve straight down through the skin, using the fork to push out the leg and thigh, then cut through the ball joint at the knee so the drumstick separates from the thigh. Transfer that to the platter with the wing. Now slice the thigh from the carcass: follow the joints, don’t just hack through bone.
- Now you’ve got the wing and leg out the way, you can slice the breast. Use the tip of your fork to hold the turkey steady at the top of the breast. Then, using the whole length of the knife, carve 0.5cm-thick slices from the breast. As soon as you get halfway down the slice, use the fork to gently hold the slice in place until you finish.
- Use the knife and fork to transfer the slices to the platter, or directly onto someone’s plate. When you’ve taken all the meat off one breast, take the wing and leg off the other side, and repeat until you’ve carved as much as you need.
- To carve the dark thigh meat, use the fork to steady the thigh, then gently carve pieces from it – you probably want these to be a bit thicker than the slices from the breast.
For more turkey help, check out our ultimate guide to buying, prepping and cooking your bird.