How to get as much meat as possible from your Thanksgiving turkey
This story was originally published in November 2013.
This step-by-step approach to carving your Thanksgiving turkey will save you time, assure that you get as much meat as possible for your dinner and leftovers, and also make for an impressive presentation.
After letting the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes, start by carving the top of the breast along the breast bone. As you slice down, be sure to follow the curvature of the bone as it slants outwards.
Cut the leg down as far as you can to separate it from the breast meat.
Cut the bottom of the breast section towards the breast bone.
Pull the entire breast section away from the bone and finish cutting it away until you reach the bottom. Note: Pull the leg away from the turkey until it breaks away and can be removed. You may have to cut it to make a clean break.
Turn the turkey over, pull the wings off and cut away the thigh section.
There will be a bone in the middle of the thigh. Cut that away on either side until you are able to pull it out, leaving the thigh meat (dark) together as much as possible. Slice that meat into smaller serving size pieces to put on the platter.
After repeating these steps for the other side of the turkey, take the breast piece and slice it against the grain into serving size pieces with the skin on.
Arrange the pieces of meat on a platter surrounded by fruit and herb garnish, with the breast meat in the center, the legs on the outside and the thigh meat on the other side of the platter. (Include the wings if desired, or save them for turkey soup.)
Get all the turkey tips and hacks on TikTok from Butterball this Thanksgiving
Recipe: Salt-and-Pepper Roast Turkey Breast, from New York Times Cooking
Celebrate the holidays with these recipes courtesy of New York Times Cooking, specially chosen for “Sunday Morning” viewers.
We are pleased to share Eric Kim’s Salt-and-Pepper Roast Turkey Breast.
A bone-in turkey breast is significantly easier to cook than a whole bird, it takes a fraction of the time, and it still feeds a group comfortably. To ensure succulence, you could apply a dry brine the night before, but when you’re cooking just a breast, the greatest insurance against dryness is pulling it out of the oven the moment it’s done, and no later. (For that, rely on an electric instant-read meat thermometer; it’s the only way to get a truly accurate read on the internal temperature of your meat.) I like to roast turkey the way I roast chicken: unbrined but slathered in butter, showered with salt and pepper and popped into a moderately hot oven to get crispy skin. Once the slices are fanned out on a platter tumbled with lemon wedges, it looks like a veritable feast.
Salt-and-Pepper Roast Turkey Breast. Bryan Gardner for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.
Salt-and-Pepper Roast Turkey Breast
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Time: 2 hours, plus overnight thawing and 2 hours' resting
½ cup unsalted butter, very soft
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole (6- to 8-pound) bone-in turkey breast (see Tip)
4 lemons, quartered, for garnish
Keep the butter nearby. Place about 1/4 cup kosher salt in a small bowl and keep nearby as well, along with a black-pepper grinder. Transfer the turkey breast to a large sheet pan and thoroughly dry all over with a paper towel; get it as bone-dry as you can. Using your hands, very liberally rub the butter all over the turkey breast. (If the butter is difficult to spread, soften it further in the microwave in 10-second intervals.) Make sure to slather the butter on the underside and bones in addition to the entire surface of the skin. Wipe your hands with a towel. Generously season the turkey all over with salt, especially inside the cavity. You don’t have to be precise here, but do go heavy on the salt — the turkey can take it. (In general, you should account for about 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoon Morton coarse kosher salt per pound.) Next, generously grind black pepper all over the turkey; again, no need to measure this. Let the turkey breast sit so the seasoning can penetrate the meat and allow the bird to come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the turkey breast in the oven, then with the oven door still open, carefully pour 1 cup water into the sheet pan. Close the oven door and roast until the turkey’s internal temperature reaches 150 degrees, 13 to 15 minutes per pound. (To read the temperature, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of one of the breasts, making sure to avoid the bone, which will give you an inaccurate reading.) Very carefully rotate the pan halfway through roasting and add another cup of water if the pan looks dry. When done roasting (1 1/2 to 2 hours), the skin should be golden brown and crispy. Let the turkey breast rest in its pan, uncovered, until cool enough to handle, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut along one side of the breastbone with a sharp knife, then the other, cutting each breast off the bone, and keeping the skin intact. Thickly slice each breast crosswise and serve on a large platter scattered with the lemon quarters. Taste the pan juices and, if they’re a little salty, stir in a little hot water. If they need more seasoning, stir in salt and pepper. Spoon the pan juices over and around the sliced turkey.
If your turkey breast is frozen (most are), thaw it in the refrigerator a day or two before you plan to roast it. You can also thaw a frozen turkey breast by letting it sit — still in its packaging — in a large bucket or pot filled with cold tap water, about 30 minutes per pound. Every hour, be sure to turn the breast and change the water.
Check out the “Sunday Morning” 2021 Food Issue Recipe Index for more menu suggestions, from all of the chefs, cookbook authors, flood writers and restaurateurs featured on our program.
And head to New York Times Cooking for more delicious Thanksgiving recipes.