Carving Roast Turkey or Chicken


There is actually nothing difficult or mysterious about carving but a really sharp knife, ideally sharpened by a proper steel, is a must. Remember to cut across the grain of meat. This requires a little simple knowledge of anatomy and which way the meat fibres run. Cutting across the grain of meat shortens muscle fibres and means more tender meat. It is also worth remembering that white meat comes from the breast and dark meat from the rest of the body and the legs. Ideally you should serve a selection of both to your guests.

Don’t be tempted to carve too far ahead or you may lose valuable meat juice. It is better to serve good juicy slices freshly cut than to try and save a few minutes.

Turkey and chicken are carved in the same way, while ducks and geese require a slightly different technique because of their different body shapes.

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  1. Before starting to carve, remove all the trussing strings if the bird was trussed. Work on one side of the bird at a time. Cut through the thigh and breast skin, then prise the thigh away from the body. Locate the socket joint and pull the leg away from the body, cutting through the joint. There is no need to cut through the actual bone.

  2. Cut down across the breast in 5mm (¼ in) slices, including stuffing if possible, otherwise spoon out the stuffing. Cut enough for 1 portion, then cut some leg meat. If you are carving a large turkey, you can save time by slicing the breast in advance and putting it back on the carcase before bringing the bird to the table.

  3. Next, separate the thigh from the drumstick, slicing down between the joint. If the bird is small, however, you can leave the leg whole. For a better presentation cut or pull off the scaly knuckle at the end of the drumstick and discard.

  4. The legs of larger chickens and turkeys should be carved into further pieces. For darker leg meat, hold the drumstick away from you and cut off slices. Cut the thigh across into several pieces. Discard the wing tip and only serve the wing joint if you are running out of other meat.