Here's the thing you need to remember: Don't carve the breast meat right off the whole bird. Remove each breast, then slice it. It may seem obvious, but Alex Jermasek, the head butcher at Belcampo Meat Co., a farm, butcher shop and restaurant with multiple California locations, says you'd be surprised how many people just attack the turkey with their knife, sawing away at the breast. They wind up hacking the meat into shreds—and cutting this way actually makes the meat less tasty.

Instead, locate the keel bone (also called the breast bone; it's an extension of the sternum) and use your knife to score the meat, tracing along both edges of the bone. You should then be able to peel both breasts away, using your hands. You'll have two torpedo-shaped pieces of white meat; Jermasek likes to start at each torpedo's wider end, and make the slices rather thick, going crosswise (this is the key to making the breast as delicious-tasting as possible, since cutting against the grain gives you more tender meat), about a half- to three-quarters of an inch thick. That may be thicker than you're used to, but Jermasek promises a steak-like piece of breast meat is going to be much tastier than a thin slice that's shaved off lengthwise. Depending on the size of the turkey, you'll get anywhere from six to 10 slices from each breast.

Now, back to the dark meat. The wings are probably best for flavoring gravy or stock, says Gaier. Separate the drumsticks from the thighs and keep the drumsticks whole (first, they're probably the most recognizable, impressive-looking pieces of the entire bird; and second, they contain a lot of pin bones, which can make them hard to cut neatly). As for the thighs, Jermasek has a genius tip: Shred them into large-ish chunks using forks, then toss them with a bit of gravy to season them. Present the sliced breast meat with the drumsticks at one end of the platter, and arrange the shredded, gravy-soaked thigh meat around the edges.

One last piece of advice from Gaier: Practice on a chicken. The anatomy is virtually the same, and if you carve a roast chicken the week before Thanksgiving, you'll be more sure of yourself on the big day.


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