Don’t let that beautiful golden-brown bird you labored over for days brining, roasting, and basting turn into a scene out of a horror film — shredded into unrecognizable, microscopic pieces of meat that you swore was once a juicy Thanksgiving turkey.

Carving a turkey doesn’t have to be a dreaded task. It really isn’t that hard as long as you avoid a few common mistakes. Basically, if you can carve a chicken, you can carve a turkey (and if you can’t, just practice).

Set yourself up for success by arranging your tools. Use a large cutting board because turkeys are enormous and you don’t want your bird hanging off the board and rocking back-and-forth while you are trying to carve it.

Keep your cutting board from slipping by placing a damp towel or paper towels underneath, and have some extra ready-to-grab towels on the side so you can clean up any running juices.

Now that you know how to start, read on to find out what you shouldn’t do while carving your turkey this Thanksgiving.

1. Carving More Than You Need



It might seem like a good idea to break down the whole bird while you are at it, but the meat will dry out faster once its cut, so if you really only need have the meat for your Thanksgiving dinner, just carve half, and save the rest on the bone for later use in Thanksgiving leftover recipes.

2. Not Letting Your Turkey Rest



Your bird isn’t ready the moment it leaves the oven; instead, loosely tent your turkey and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Don’t worry, with a bird that large, it will still be piping hot when you go to carve it, but the juices will have had time to redistribute, locking in all that flavor and succulence.

3. Not Removing the Breast Meat From the Bone Before Slicing



Slicing the breast meat on the bone is done often, but it shouldn’t be. Instead, remove the whole breast in one piece to keep the crisped skin intact and to make slicing the breast meat widthwise easier. To do this, start at the center and cut straight down along the cartilage, then use the rib cage as a guide to free the meat from the bones.

4. Not Slicing the Thigh Meat

baked turkey leg

big leg turkey baked with various spices (iStock)

The thigh meat is tucked in behind the leg, so the skin is usually soggy. Luckily, while the skin isn’t the delicious crackling skin you find on the breast meat, if cooked to 165 degrees F, the meat will be incredibly juicy. Remove any unappetizing skin and cut the meat into larger chunks so your guests can enjoy this cut better.

5. Removing the Stuffing Incorrectly



If you choose to stuff your bird, you will need to remove the stuffing without damaging the meat or tearing the skin before you start carving. Make an oval incision at the neck cavity, and then use a long-handled spoon to scoop the stuffing out of the bird.

Check out more major turkey fails.

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