How to prepare and carve a turkey

  • By BBC Good Food team

Give your roast turkey the care and attention it deserves this Christmas, from preparing it for the oven to carving it at the table. Just follow our step-by-step guide.

Perfect pancetta & roast shallot-stuffed turkey on table

How to prepare a turkey

Once you’ve chosen the perfect turkey recipe for Christmas Day, it’s important to keep the bird moist during cooking. An easy way to do this is to insert butter and rashers of bacon underneath the skin – here’s how in three easy steps:


1. Spread the butter under the skin

Carefully push your hand between the turkey breast and the skin to create a pocket. Spread the butter under the skin.

Hands pushing butter under turkey skin


2. Add the bacon

Arrange the bacon in 2 rectangles of 6 overlapping rashers, then carefully push these under the skin.

Adding bacon under turkey skin


3. Lie the bacon flat

Feed all the bacon under the skin to lie flat and cover the breast, then smooth the skin back over.

Spreading bacon under turkey skin
Now you’re ready to roast your turkey according to your chosen recipe. Our foolproof turkey guide should help you with timings, and you can print off our Christmas time-plan to make scheduling the rest of dinner a breeze.

How to carve a turkey – step-by-step

1. Releasing the drumstick and thigh

Cut through the skin that attaches the leg to the body. Ease the thigh outwards and cut through the joint to remove the leg and thigh.

Removing brown meat from turkey


2. Cut through the drumstick and thigh

Cut between the drumstick and thigh until the knife hits the joint; twist the knife through it to separate the two.

Cutting through drumstick and thigh of turkey


3. Slice or serve the drumsticks

You can now leave the drumsticks and thighs whole, or carve into slices – the easiest way is to hold a piece up and carve around it.

Slicing off brown meat from turkey leg
Now follow one of two methods below for how to carve the breast meat.

Carving turkey breast: method one
Do this at the table for large slices
 

1. Make a deep cut across the bottom of each turkey breast

Cutting across turkey breast

2. Starting at the neck end, cut long thin slices down the length of the bird.

Carving turkey from neck end

3. Keep going until you reach the breast bone.

If you remove the wishbone when you get to it, you’ll keep carving neat slices.

Carving until reaching the breast bone
Carving the breast: method two
Do this in the kitchen for good portion control
 

1. Make a deep cut across the bottom, then cut all the way down the top of the turkey, either side of the breast bone.

Carving the breast of turkey


2. Cutting as close to the bone as possible, carve out the whole breast, pulling it away as you cut.

Carving out whole turkey breast


3. Carve the breast into thick-ish slices.

Carving turkey breast into slices

Video: how to carve a turkey

Looking for more Christmas Day tips? Try these guides:

Our famous roast timer
Christmas dinner recipe collection
How to brine a turkey
Top 10 turkey recipes
Complete classic Christmas menu

 

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