How to Carve a Turkey


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Wondering how to carve a turkey? We’ve all been there… Everyone is ready to eat, and it’s time…That’s when the theme from “Jaws” starts playing in your head. There is “the right way to carve a turkey,” but you’re unsure how to do it properly.

Folks, carving a turkey like a pro isn’t hard! Using either a carving knife or electric, you can perfectly carve a whole roast turkey, a spatchcocked turkey, or turkey breast. So read on!

A properly carved turkey on a serving plate garnished with cranberries, rosemary, and thyme.

How Long To Rest A Turkey Before Carving

It’s important to let the meat rest after cooking. This allows juices to redistribute. Most chefs agree: turkey needs at least 20 (although we prefer 30) minutes to rest. This gives you time to make gravy, cranberry sauce, and to finalize other fixings.

Loosely cover the bird with foil while it rests. And heck, why not have a martini to sip? ;)

Tools Needed

Carving in the kitchen lets you relax and create a gorgeous presentation. You will need:

A turkey leg being carved off of a whole turkey.

How To Carve A Turkey Like A Pro

Whether carving the turkey at the table or in the kitchen we’ve got you covered! Follow these steps for turkey carving perfection every time.

TIP:  When carving a turkey, follow the bones and the natural lines and separations of the meat. It shouldn’t be excessively hard to cut.

  1. Remove Drumstick/Thigh: Hold the drumstick away from the breast and slip the knife between the breast and the leg (photo above) and remove the the thigh and drumstick. Separate the drumstick and thigh at the joint and set aside.
  2. Remove the Breast: Make a cut along the center of the breast bone. Cut downwards along the bone to remove the breast from the carcass. Place the breast on a cutting board and slice across the grain (image below).

A turkey breast being sliced on a a wooden cutting board.

  1. Remove Wings: Cut through the joint where the wings meet the backbone.

Carving the Dark Meat

  1. Separate the thigh and drumstick at the joint.
  2. To Carve the Drumstick: Hold drumstick vertically and slice parallel to the bone turning the drumstick to get even cuts.
  3. To Carve the Thigh: Cut the thigh like the drumstick running a knife along the meat next to the bone.Feel around with your fingers to get rid of any cartilage.

Repeat process on the other side.

Carving the White Meat

  1. Cut all the way to the bottom on one side of the middle breast bone. Angle the knife outwards at the bottom of the breast, and following the contour of the bone continue carving towards the tail.
  2. Use the knife tip and your fingers to pry the breast away from the bone. Gently pull until the entire breast detaches.
  3. Leaving the skin on, slice the breast every half inch, cutting against the grain. Try fanning thick slices of breast meat around the outside edge of the platter. Pile dark meat in the middle.

Repeat process on the other side.

How To Carve A Turkey With An Electric Knife

I like to take the turkey off the bone manually, then use the electric knife to slice, but it’s ok to carve with the electric knife, too. The rest of the process is exactly the same, but you’ll love the way the meat slices like butter! Things to remember:

  • Use your hands to separate cuts of meat from the bone before slicing with the electric knife.
  • Make gentle cuts at first, to get used to the knife. Use gentle pressure letting the knife do all the work!

Now you know how to carve a turkey like a pro. No more stress. You’ve got this! Happy Thanksgiving!

Perfect Sides to Serve with Your Turkey

A properly carved turkey on a serving plate garnished with cranberries, rosemary, and thyme.
A properly carved turkey on a serving plate garnished with cranberries, rosemary, and thyme.
Top photo - A turkey breast being sliced on a a wooden cutting board. Bottom photo - A turkey leg being carved off of a whole turkey.

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Holly

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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