Thanksgiving 101

How to Carve a Turkey

Updated on 27. Dec. 2018

You've spent hours (perhaps days) tending to the turkey, and it's a sight to behold. Now it's time to carve it. Many a Thanksgiving host has been stumped at this point as to what to do and where to begin. Sure, you can ask one of your guests to handle this duty, or you can easily master the carving yourself.

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Carving Basics

There's more than one way to carve a turkey, and differing opinions about the order in which you go about doing it. Here's the most common technique and the one that is straightforward enough for beginners. As you become more comfortable with the process, you will undoubtedly develop your own preferred method. The turkey will be cool enough to handle after it has rested for at least 20 minutes, during which time the juices will have settled; avoid using a carving fork, if possible, which would allow those juices to escape.

The right tool 

If you have purchased a knife set, you likely already have a carving knife in your block. Or perhaps you have a special set that you bring out each year, once or twice a year: Thanksgiving and Christmas. The carver should be 10 to 12 inches long and, according to one knife producer, should have a sharp point for being able to slice through the tendons and joints of the turkey.


  1. Position the turkey on the carving board with the legs facing you and remove the twine. Pull one leg away from body, then slice down repeatedly through the meat with the carving knife until you see the joint, cut through the joint to separate the leg from the body.
  2. The leg has a V shape, with the joint at the point; cut through that joint to separate the thigh and drumstick, and set the drumstick on a platter. Slice thigh meat from around the bone, then twist and pull the bone to remove. Slice thigh meat into pieces. Repeat this process with the other leg.
  3. Pull the wing tip away from the body to expose the joint and use the carving knife to cut through the joint, leaving the drumette intact (to help stabilize the turkey while cutting the breast meat). Repeat with other wing tip. Note: If you have stuffed the turkey, you will need to spoon it from the cavities into a serving dish.
  4. Remove the wishbone to make it easier to remove the breast meat. Insert the tip of the carving knife on one side of the breast bone and work the tip of the knife down along the curve of the bone to loosen the meat from the bone while pulling the meat away in one piece, until separated. Set this aside to cool while removing the other side of the breast.
  5. Cut the breast meat against the grain into slices; do not slice too thinly or the meat will dry out before serving.


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