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November 23, 2020

How to Carve a Turkey by Duncan Hines, 1953

Duncan Hines (March 26, 1880 – March 15, 1959) was an American pioneer of restaurant ratings for travelers. He is best known today for the brand of food products that bears his name.

Duncan Hines carving a turkey at home, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Fall 1953.

Hines worked as a traveling salesman for a Chicago printer, and he had eaten many meals on the road across the United States by 1935 when he was 55. At this time, there was no American interstate highway system and only a few chain restaurants, except in large populated areas. Therefore, travelers depended on getting a good meal at a local restaurant. Hines and his wife Florence began assembling a list for friends of several hundred good restaurants around the country.

The book proved so successful that Hines added another which recommended lodging. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hines wrote the newspaper food column Adventures in Good Eating at Home, which appeared in newspapers across the US three times a week on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. The column featured restaurant recipes adapted for home cooks that he had collected during his nationwide travels.

In 1953, Hines published a paperback cookbook named “How to Carve Your Turkey”. This illustrated pamphlet gives instructions for cutting, slicing, and serving a turkey; a recipe for stuffing is included. This vintage cookbook is always a classic cooking reference when it comes to Turkey Day!

“One of the greatest and finest American traditions is Thanksgiving Day, with the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner…and the central figure of the dinner is the turkey.”

“The family and guests gather around the table, admire the bird, join in the prayer of thanks, and settle back in pleasant anticipation of a delicious meal and a good show—the ritual of carving the turkey.”

“When you know how, carving is not difficult, and it is fun to put on the expected show.”

“With those essentials, my friends, and a few simple instructions, I wish you a hearty appetite and a very Happy Thanksgiving.”

Position at the table

Before you start, be sure that the theater of operations is properly arranged. For a right handed carver, the bird’s legs should be to the right and the neck to the left. A Separate smaller platter is very helpful in slicing the leg.

Under-cutting the leg

A broad-tined fork thrust astride the breast bone will give you control of the entire operation. Till the bird slightly away from you and make two cuts in front of and behind the leg and thigh as shown.

Removing the leg

Next, remove the leg by making a complete downward cut between the leg and the body; then, when you grasp the end of the drumstick in the fingers and turn it towards you, it should come off cleanly. Lay the entire leg on the side platter.

Severing drumstick from thigh

To sever the drumstick from the thigh, lay the browned side down so you can see the joint more easily. One clean cut, as shown in the drawing, should be suflicient. After severing, place each piece brown side up on the platter, as they look more appetizing that way.

Removing the wing

Next, remove the wing. Make two V-shaped cuts as with the leg, both above and below the joint. A deep cut, under the wing close to the body will enable you, by turning the knife inward, to reach the joint. Now place the fork under the end of the wing and push out and forward. The wing should then be put on the platter with the leg.

Slicing the drumstick

To slice the drumstick, hold it vertically on the side platter and cut it cleanly into 1/4” slices. Put the slices at the end of the side platter.

Slicing the second joint

The thigh, or “second joint”, is next. Holding it with the fork on the side platter, cut attractive slices about 1/4” thick and put them alongside the drumstick slices.

Slicing the breast

With the fork firmly across the highest point of the breastbone, cut the white meat as shown in the drawing. The angle, across the grain, will permit more uniform slices and the meat will be less likely to crumble. Put the slices on the side platter at the end opposite to the dark meat.


Many people have decided preferences and the thoughtful host will inquire what they desire and serve accordingly. When no preference is expressed, the helping should be equal parts of light and dark meat. In all cases, a spoonful of stuffing should first be put on the plate. Serve neatly, as appearance aids appetite. Leave room on the late for vegetables. The carver may put on the gravy, or it may be passed to each guest after he has been served. That is a matter of individual preference.

SELECTING THE BIRD isn’t difficult, but here are some tips on getting just the right one for your family. If you can use a turkey under about 13 pounds, a plump hen will be most satisfactory. In turkeys of this size, the hens usually have more meal per pound. If you need a larger bird, a young tom turkey is best, as the larger hens are likely to be tough. You can tell a young turkey by feeling the cartilage at the end of the breastbone—in a young bird it is soft and pliable. In choosing between two turkeys of the same weight, select the shorter bird—it will lose more meat on it. The skin should be smooth and completely free of hair and down. If you are having the market dress your turkey, have them remove the drumstick tendons, which become hard and bony when cooked.

STUFFING—There are about as many kinds of stuffing as them are cooks, but just about all of them start with this simple basic recipe–
4 cups of crumbs (bread or cracker)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Mix lightly with a fork and season to taste.

For a more piquant flavor, add such seasonings as minced onion, sage. chives, sunnier savory, celery seed, marjoram, thyme, poultry seasoning or any combination.

Or add a cup of finely chopped celery or onion—you'll find it will add zest to the dish. Sliced mushrooms are another welcome addition.

I’ve eaten stuffings made of oysters, and in some parts of the country they use peanuts or chestnuts. They really is no limit to the variations. Use your imagination to meet the tastes of your family and with that final word of advice…



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