Learn How to Carve a Turkey like an expert, thanks to these step-by-step pictures and a video. Your Thanksgiving turkey platter will rival those in magazines! 

Don’t forget to use your turkey drippings for Gravy and serve turkey with some of our favorite Thanksgiving sides including Perfect Mashed Potatoes, Classic Stuffing, and everyone’s favorite Cranberry Salad.

A plate with carved turkey meat, decorated with lemon slices and fresh herbs.

Whether you’re cooking our hugely popular Oven Roasted Turkey or using your grill or smoker to cook a Smoked Turkey, the end result is only as impressive as your carving skills! Carving a turkey can be intimidating, but I’ve got you covered with the simple steps you need to know to carve a turkey effortlessly!

What you’ll need:

  • A sharp knife. You don’t have to have a fancy chef’s knife to carve a turkey, but you will need a sharp carving knife. (I love my Wusthof knife set).
  • A large cutting board You’ll need a large enough cutting board to fit the whole turkey. I place my cutting board on a baking sheet with edges, to catch any liquid and drippings.
  • A serving platter. Have a serving platter nearby to place the cut pieces of meat as you carve the turkey.
  • Aluminum foil.  Cover the carved meat with foil as you go, to keep it warm until serving.

Tips:

  • Let the cooked turkey rest!  You’ve spent all this time preparing and roasting the perfect turkey, but one of the most important steps is to allow it about 30 minutes to rest! If you cut into the turkey before it has had time to rest the juices will run out, instead of absorbing back into the meat, keeping it moist.
  • Carefully cut the skin.  If you’ve achieved the goal of crispy skin on your turkey, then be sure to preserve the skin for eating by cutting it as carefully as you can (with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors) so that each slice of turkey has skin still attached.
  • Save the leftovers. Everyone loves leftover turkey sandwiches served on homemade rolls the next day or to use in one of our many leftover turkey recipes.
  • Use paper towels.  The turkey may still be very hot when carving, so use use paper towels to protect your hand and to steady the bird while you cut.
  • Remove trussing strings.

How to Carve a Turkey

1. Remove the legs

  • Start with one leg and use your knife to slice through the skin and meat toward the leg joint while at the same time gently pulling the leg back and separate it from the rest of the turkey.  As you gently pull it, listen for the joint to “pop”, meaning that the thigh bone popped through.  You don’t want to cut right through the joint! Then gently cut away any additional skin and meat around the joint and remove the leg from the body.  Set aside the thigh and drumstick and repeat this process with the remaining leg.

2.Remove the wishbone

  • Remove the wishbone next so that it’s extra easy to cut away the breast meat.  Plus, then you can make a wish!  Locate the front neck cavity of the bird (where the head would be) and cut away the skin from the opening of the neck so that you have a window into the neck cavity.  The wishbone runs along the neck cavity in an upside down “v”.  Use your hands to feel for the bone then gently cut along the wishbone and pull it down and out of the bird.

3. Remove the breast meat

  • First locate the keelbone AKA breast bone that runs all the way down the center of the carcass, separating the two turkey breasts. Take your knife and cut down center on one side of the keelbone.  Slice downward, following the curve of the breast bone and cutting and separating the breast meat from the bone until the entire breast is free.  Set breast meat aside and repeat this process with the other turkey breast.

3. Remove the wings

  • Gently pull the wings away from the body and use your knife to cut around the skin and meat and cut through the joint. Remove the wing, set it aside, and remove the other joint.

4. Carve the meat.

  • Slice against the grain!  The most important part of carving the meat is to cut it the correct way.  Cutting against the grain means cutting the meat opposite of the direction that the natural muscle fibers run.  If you look at each piece of your carved turkey meat, you’ll see its all “running” or pointing the same direction.  Be sure to cut it opposite of this which will help ensure that the meat is tender and not chewy.
  • Try to preserve the skin. Cut as carefully through the skin as you can (with a sharp knife) so that each slice of turkey has its skin still attached.
  • Separate the drumstick from the thigh by placing it skin side down on your cutting board and cutting right through the natural seam of the joint.
  • Keep the turkey warm: Cover it with aluminum foil while carving to keep it warm.
  • Save the turkey carcass.  Use rest remaining turkey carcass to make homemade broth or freeze the carcass and make broth another day!

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Recipe

A plate with carved turkey meat, decorated with lemon slices and fresh herbs.
Prep 5 mins
Cook 10 mins
Total 15 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

Remove the legs:

  • Start with one leg and use your knife to slice through the skin and meat toward the leg joint while at the same time gently pulling the leg back and separate it from the rest of the turkey.  As you gently pull it, listen for the joint to "pop", meaning that the thigh bone popped through.  You don't want to cut right through the joint! Then gently cut away any additional skin and meat around the joint and remove the leg from the body.  Set aside the thigh and drumstick and repeat this process with the remaining leg.

Remove the wishbone:

  • Remove the wishbone next so that it's extra easy to cut away the breast meat.  Plus, then you can make a wish!  Locate the front neck cavity of the bird (where the head would be) and cut away the skin from the opening of the neck so that you have a window into the neck cavity.  The wishbone runs along the neck cavity in an upside down "v".  Use your hands to feel for the bone then gently cut along the wishbone and pull it down and out of the bird.

Remove the breast meat:

  • First locate the keelbone AKA breast bone that runs all the way down the center of the carcass, separating the two turkey breasts. Take your knife and cut down center on one side of the keelbone.  Slice downward, following the curve of the breast bone and cutting and separating the breast meat from the bone until the entire breast is free.  Set breast meat aside and repeat this process with the other turkey breast.

Remove the wings:

  • Gently pull the wings away from the body and use your knife to cut around the skin and meat and cut through the joint. Remove the wing, set it aside, and remove the other joint.

Carve the turkey meat:

  • Slice against the grain!  The most important part of carving the meat is to cut it the correct way.  Cutting against the grain means cutting the meat opposite of the direction that the natural muscle fibers run.  If you look at each piece of your carved turkey meat, you'll see its all "running" or pointing the same direction.  Be sure to cut it opposite of this which will help ensure that the meat is tender and not chewy.
  • Try to preserve the skin. Cut as carefully through the skin as you can (with a sharp knife) so that each slice of turkey has its skin still attached.
  • Separate the drumstick from the thigh by placing it skin side down on your cutting board and cutting right through the natural seam of the joint.
  • Keep the turkey warm: Cover it with aluminum while carving to keep it warm.
  • Save the turkey carcus: Use rest of circus to make homemade chicken broth or freeze it and make broth another day!

Notes

Pro Tips:
  • Let the cooked turkey rest!  You've spent all this time preparing and roasting the perfect turkey, but one of the most important steps is to allow it about 30 minutes to rest! If you cut into the turkey before it has had time to rest the juices will run out, instead of absorbing back into the meat, keeping it moist.
  • Carefully cut the skin.  If you've achieved the goal of crispy skin on your turkey, then be sure to preserve the skin for eating by cutting it as carefully as you can (with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors) so that each slice of turkey has skin still attached.
  • Save the leftovers. Everyone loves leftover turkey sandwiches served on homemade rolls the next day or to use in one of our many leftover turkey recipes.
  • Use paper towels.  The turkey may still be very hot when carving, so use use paper towels to protect your hand and to steady the bird while you cut.
  • Remove trussing strings.

Nutrition

Calories: 242kcalProtein: 37gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 192mgPotassium: 385mgSugar: 1gVitamin A: 96IUCalcium: 19mgIron: 1mg

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Photography by The Travel Palate.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Great video. Thanks! I follow you often and you have wonderful recipes as well as videos. I consider myself quite good in the kitchen, but, one can always learn something new!

  2. I was hoping the video would be a turkey carving video but when I played it, it was how to make a graham cracker pie crust! Not sure if that’s an error?

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you for the simple instructions. This is not intimidating to me. I am 80 years old and this is the first turkey I will attempt since my wife, who has done the cooking in the past 42 years, has Alzheimers and can’t remember how it is done. We really thank you. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
    “Happy 2 Be, Together Forever!”

    1. Hope you are having a wonderful Christmas. It’s so sweet you’ve taken over the cooking for your wife. Hope she’s doing well. Love your love story.

  4. 5 stars
    Thanks Lauren! One of the hardest thing to do! Looking forward to trying the new carving technique out at thanksgiving.