How to Carve a Turkey

This method for the best way to carve a turkey offers easy, step-by-step instructions on how to present a Thanksgiving platter that’ll elicit oohs and aahs and ensure your dinner looks more like a centerpiece than a chainsaw massacre.

A carved turkey on a wooden cutting board.

Year-Round Roasting | Weldon Owen, 2014

Reacquainting oneself with how to carve a turkey each year has to rank among the Thanksgiving performances folks tend to dread the most. Right up there with restraining your significant other from discussing politics with your uncle and quietly enduring your mother reminding you, yet again, of what hairstyle would look flattering on you.

Thankfully, unlike family dynamics, carving a turkey is actually within your control. And it’s not as hard as you’d expect. It’s just a matter of knowing the right technique. Like the one explained in straightforward, step-by-step instructions below.

Because not stressing about how to carve the turkey affords you SO MUCH more patience for all those other holiday rituals. Which in turn makes your Thanksgiving dinner—the turkey carving part, anyways—as Rockwell-ian as possible.David Leite

Divvy the carving into the following steps, doing them in the order below.

1. Remove the drumsticks

Transfer the bird, breast-side up, from the roasting pan to a carving board with the legs facing you. If you’ve got stuffing in the bird, carefully scoop it out and transfer it to a serving dish.

Using a carving knife, cut through the skin between the breast and the thigh. Locate the thigh joint and cut through it to separate the drumstick.

Four smoked turkey legs on a wire rack on a wooden surface.
: Russ Crandall

Repeat on the other side. Leave the thighs on the bird to stabilize it while you remove the breast.

2. Carve the breast

There are two ways to handle the turkey breast: either carve it in thin slices directly from the bird or first remove the entire breast from the turkey and then cut it crosswise into neat slices.

White and blue plate with sliced roast turkey breast with herbed stuffing and gravy.
: David Loftus

Here are instructions for the latter. Just above the thigh and wing, carve a deep horizontal cut through the breast to the bone to create a base cut. Slip your knife alongside the breastbone and slice downward, parallel to the breastbone, to meet the horizontal cut. You should be able to remove the entire breast half.

Place it on a cutting surface and slice the breast meat crosswise to cut it into thick medallions. Repeat on the other side.

3. Remove the thighs and wings

You’ve already cut around the thigh so you should be able to pry each thigh away from the joint fairly easily and then use the knife to slice the thighs from the bird. If desired, cut each thigh into thick slices. Next, locate the joint between each wing and the breastbone and cut through the joints to remove the wings.

A Texas style smoked turkey cut into breast and leg pieces on a cutting board with a knife.
: Johnny Autry

4. Arrange the turkey on a serving platter or cutting board

[Editor’s Note. That’s it. Your work is done. All that remains is to graciously accept accolades from family and friends. That wasn’t so difficult, was it?!] 

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