How to carve a turkey like a pro

Annabel Else

If you ever look at pictures of cooked turkey, you'll probably see someone trying to cut neat slices straight off the breast.

That's fine for a couple of slices, but pretty soon your carving knife will catch on a bone and then things can start to get really awkward.

You can end up with a big messy heap of bird and a random selection of dissected bits and pieces. And somehow a generously sized bird doesn't seem to have much meat on it.

By comparison, the method in the video above (which is incidentally very similar to the way Jamie Oliver advises viewers to do it) is really easy and means you can get far more neat slices off your turkey.

It will work for most other roast birds too – including chicken.

Before you start:
We're assuming the bird's cooked through and has rested for at least half an hour – an hour is better. To keep it warm while it's resting (and you roast the spuds and make gravy etc) cover it with foil (shiny side down) and two or three clean tea towels. When you're ready to carve, put it on a board to stop it shimmying around. Make sure you have a sharp knife. If it's blunt, here's how to sharpen it. If there's string, cut it off.

How it's done:
1 Start with a leg. Cut downwards through the skin between the leg and the breast. Put your knife aside and look into the space where the knife was. You should be able to see the joint where the leg bone attaches to the carcass. Use your hands to wiggle and twist the leg around a little (the bird's – not yours) to loosen the joint, then pick up the knife again and push the point of the knife into the joint. It should go in easily, break the joint, and you should then be able to lift the leg away, taking care to keep the skin on.

2 If it's a big leg, you might want to separate the thigh from the drumstick. Do this by pushing the point of the knife carefully into the joint and pushing downwards. Repeat for the other leg. You may want to carve (or break) the meat from the legs into smaller pieces.

3 Next, tackle the breasts – one at a time. Locate the breastbone by feeling along the line between the two breasts with your fingers. Then place the blade of the knife carefully along the same line but slightly to the right. Stroke the knife downwards so that it goes between the breastbone and the breast meat. Keep going until you can lift the breast away in one piece. Place it skin-side up on a board and slice it. Repeat for the other breast.

4 The wings should now be easier to remove because the joints are exposed. Remove them in much the same way that you removed the legs - push the point of the knife into the joint to loosen it, wiggle, twist and then cut downwards to take the wing off the carcass.

5 You can probably stop at this point and serve. You deserve a round of applause and probably a drink. But if you want the chef's treat, go back to the location of the leg joint and feel underneath the carcass to locate the 'oyster'. It's a smallish, convex, oval piece of meat - possibly the tastiest piece of meat on the bird because it's so close to the bone. Enjoy. There should be one on the other side too – save that for your best friend.

Happy Christmas!

More turkey know-how
Defrosting times
Turkey cooking times
More food safety advice and tips
Prepare and stuff the turkey
The very best gravy to make on the day
Perfect roast potatoes
Twelve ways to cook Brussels sprouts

More festive food ideas:
Christmas menus: Festive food for everyone
Christmas cooking for one or two
What to do with a supermarket lobster
Festive cocktails, hot drinks and party food
How to have a Scandinavian-style Christmas
What to do with a supermarket lobster

Make Christmas easier on yourself:
Nine magic Christmas hacks
How to decode a whisky label
Take the stress out of Christmas
Christmas baking and dessert recipes

Need to know the best way to roast a potato? Look no further...