Chicken, turkey, and other types of poultry can be difficult to carve for a great presentation and for optimized meat recovery.
However, there is a trick to make this easier:
Remove the wishbone.
This is done when the bird is raw – and once oven roasted, braised in a pot, or smoked, the breast can be sliced cleanly, in even slices.
This can be done on the carcass, or you can remove the complete breast sections and carve them up on a cutting board.
This saves time when carving and makes for a beautiful presentation.
Steps for Removing the Wishbone
This is a quick and easy process. Have no fear. Grab a paring knife and let’s go!
Step 1 – Locate the Bone
Turn the bird so that its rump is pointed up. Slide the skin that covers the neck cavity aside and feel on the inside of the cavity for the wishbone on either side of the inner neck area.
If you can’t find it by pressure, take your paring knife and scrape a little of the flesh from both sides of the inner neck cavity. The bone is only a fraction of an inch under the flesh.
Step 2 – Free the V
Pick one side and take a sharp paring knife and use the tip to make a small slice in the flesh covering the bone. Make a big enough slice so that you can work a fingertip around the bone.
Enlarge the slit as needed. Slice forward until you can free one end of the V from the carcass.
Repeat on the other side of the carcass.
Step 3 – Cut and Remove
Once both sides are cut free, hold both of the sides gently and keep working the tip of the blade towards the end of the V until you can free the entire bone in one go.
Be careful, as the bone can snap easily and leave bone fragments in the carcass.
The center of the V is only held onto the center plate bone of the bird with a bit of cartilage. Just a little twist of the bone should break this connection and allow for free removal of the bone.
Although this all sounds complicated, it’s pretty dang easy. Once you do it a couple of times, you’ll get the hang of it and it will become routine for you – especially after you view the results of a cleanly sliced poultry breast.
Cook and Slice
Once you’ve prepared your bird in whichever manner you’ve chosen, you have two options in carving up the breast:
You can cut parallel to the backbone along the grain of the meat and remove slices. However, I prefer to remove the entire breast by cutting alongside the breast bone and along the ribs until the entire breast can be removed.
With a turkey, it may be better to remove this in two chunks by dividing the breast along the breastbone.
Once you’ve removed the breast, it can be sliced cleanly into thin (or thick) pieces – making portioning and presentation simple.
Either way you choose, you won’t have the pesky bone getting in your way. I guarantee, once you do this once, you’ll be serving wishbone-free poultry from here on out.
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Photos by Mike Quinn, © Foodal / Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Mike Quinn
Mike Quinn spent 20 years in the US Army and traveled extensively all over the world. As part of his military service, Mike sampled coffee and tea from all virtually every geographic region, from the beans from the plantation of an El Salvadorian Army Colonel to "Chi" in Iraq to Turkish Coffee in the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He spent nearly a decade in the Republic of Korea where he was exposed to all forms of traditional teas. Mike formerly owned and operated Cup And Brew, an online espresso and coffee equipment retail operation.