Plate Your Turkey Like a Pro

Your turkey should look as good as it tastes, even when it's all carved up.

Thanksgiving Turkey
Photo: Iain Bagwell

In November 1966, we celebrated our first Thanksgiving with a foil-baked turkey. Yes, a foil-baked turkey. And it was absolutely delicious. Now, our Test Kitchen cooked up two of the most mouthwatering turkey recipes ever. We have a traditional seasoned turkey and one with a little more of a flavorful kick. After you cook your bird to a crispy golden brown, make sure you know how to carve it like a pro.

Once you've sliced your meat, follow these pointers to help your well-cooked bird look its best when placed on the table for all to see.

1. Pick the Right Size Platter

This tip sounds basic, but many people pick dishes that can't hold a lot of meat—And piles of turkey are never attractive. Choose a "turkey platter," which is at least 16 inches and can accommodate the bird and garnishes. Use your other pretty platters, plates, and dishes for the soups, sides, and salads.

2. Let the Turkey Rest

Before slicing your Thanksgiving bird, allow some time for it to rest after removing it from the oven. After waiting around 30 minutes, the juices will soak into the entire turkey and create more juicy, evenly distributed meat.

3. Tackle the Legs and Thighs

Using an electric knife, separate the legs from the thighs and remove them from the turkey. Arrange them in the middle of the platter. After removing the thighs, you also want to separate the drumstick from the turkey. Flip the turkey to expose the natural separation between the drumstick and thigh to make this cut easier.

4. Slice the Breast Meat

Remove the breasts, and slice the meat on the bias. (Try not to tear the skin.) Then, fan out the slices on either side of the dark meat.

5. Remove the Wings

After removing the legs and slicing the breast meat, gently pull the wings away from the turkey. Since this area typically does not contain a lot of meat, you can set the wings aside and not plate them with the rest of the turkey. Use these wings for stock flavoring.

6. Slice Against the Grain

After you separate the turkey sections, it's time to slice the meat to place on the plate. Remember to cut against the grain to create a tender slice and use a sharp knife. A sharp blade helps keep the skin attached to the turkey meat.

7. Dress the Bird

Those who prefer cornbread dressing on Thanksgiving might leave a gaping hole when plating or presenting the turkey because there is no stuffing inside the bird. Instead of leaving this unattractive space for all your guests to observe, try filling it with additional garnishes.

8. Garnish the Meat

Surround the meat with pretty, edible trimmings: fresh herbs, nuts, and whole or sliced produce like pears, citrus, or grapes.

9. Finish with Gravy

Brush the turkey skin with a bit of gravy for a touch of shine.

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