If you’re a perennial loser at the Thanksgiving wishbone game, take heart. Your luck is about to change with these simple wishbone hacks — some of them from folks with engineering degrees.
First: If you’re trying to break that thing apart right after the meal, you’re doing it wrong. But you probably already know that, right? A “fresh” wishbone won’t break; it will bend. A wishbone must be dried before you try to snap it.
“The key to having the perfect wishbone to break is giving it enough time to dry out. Some people let it air dry from Thanksgiving to Christmas,” according to women’s online magazine Bustle.
“Some speed up the process by briefly sticking it in the oven, and some give it a full year. It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth the effort. That’s because if you don’t give it enough time to dry, the wishbone will bend and not snap, leaving you with a wishless exercise in arm strength.”
When the wishbone is dried and ready to go, grab it with your dominant hand. A dry hand is best.
Grab the side that looks thicker. Now, choke up on your side. Choking up is key.
That was one of the winning strategies scientists at the University of Michigan discovered two years ago using 3D modeling and high-speed cameras. They shared their results in a YouTube video called “How to Break a Wishbone Engineering Style.”
“Everybody wants to win the wishbone competition at Thanksgiving,” Rachael Schmedlen, biomedical engineering lecturer, says in the video. “My hope is that this shows everyone that science and technology can be used in every type of family rivalry and every type of family tradition.”
So, how do you choke up on a wishbone?
Grab the wishbone between your thumb and forefinger as close as possible to the base of the V, explains Men’s Health.
The Michigan researchers found the more you choke up, the more the other person has to do all the work, which increases the chance of them breaking their side. (It also might cause your opponent to accuse you of cheating. But hey, all’s fair in love and wishbones.)
Making your opponent do all the pulling and tugging is the second secret of success.
The more their side moves, the more stress and points of weakness it creates on the bone.
The MU scientists found that if you remain perfectly stationary, the person who does the pulling usually breaks the bone.
“He’ll probably pull out and up, which will shift the breaking point from the center to his side,” says Men’s Health. “Stand firm and you should watch the bone break in your favor most of the time.”