An Anatomical Approach to a Holiday Meal

Let’s face it…carving the turkey at Thanksgiving is a dying art. What was typically seen as the duty of the head of the household is now a task attempted by only the most traditional (or foolhardy) of family members. Most of us grew up with the idealized notion that the turkey was presented on a platter in the dining room and sliced on the table as it was served to eager guests. That technique, while not impossible, is difficult to execute and leaves much of the meat to waste on the bones of the bird. The fact is, it’s just too difficult to take apart with a huge serving fork and knife. A much better option is to show off the bird, fresh from the oven and then retire the kitchen to perform what I like to call “Turkey Surgery” before presenting the platter of sliced meat.

Musculoskeletal System of the Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo

With a little understanding of anatomy, this technique allows you to extract large chunks of meat with great precision, leaving little to waste.  The following steps will guide you through the procedure and help you make the most out of your holiday meal.

Turkey Surgery

Turkey Surgery – Procedural Guidelines

  1. Separate joints – Cut off the limbs, starting at the hip & shoulder, then slice through the knee & elbow.
  2. Debone thighs – To simplify serving, slice along the thigh bone & roll it out to leave a large cut of dark meat.
  3. Remove breasts – Begin just to one side of the midline & cut  along the sternal keel to remove the meat.  Repeat for other side.
  4. Slice meat – All the large pieces of meat can now be sliced for serving.  Always cut against the grain.
  5. Isolate wishbone – The wishbone lies in front of the sternum & is connected to the shoulders.  Cut in front of the sternal keel to find it.
Your meal can now be served to your family and friends in an easily accessible manner and even grouped according to white and dark meats.  We hope you found this guide helpful and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!