How To Carve a Turkey
Ready to take on the centerpiece of your holiday table? Our easy-to-follow instructions will have you carving that delicious, roasted bird like an experienced chef!
Rest the Turkey
One of the most important steps to perfectly carving a turkey is allowing it to rest. Slicing into a turkey immediately after cooking will cause its flavorful juices to leak out, leading to a dry and less tasty meal. Avoid this by resting your turkey under aluminum foil for at least 20 minutes after cooking.
What You'll Need
- Carving Board: A carving board will provide a stable and clean surface to carve your turkey. Unlike a regular cutting board, a good carving board will have drains for the turkey juices that escape while carving your bird.
- Carving Knife: Unlike regular knives, carving knives have a long, narrow blade with a sharp point. The knife’s design facilitates cutting into every corner of a turkey to get all the meat off the bone.
- Chef’s Knife: If you don’t have a carving knife, you can make do with a sharp chef’s knife.
- Paper Towels: You will need paper towels for keeping your hands and carving station clean.
- Carving Fork: Carving forks have long tines that can penetrate deep into your turkey and hold the bird in place while you carve. The length of the fork also helps ensure that your hands are far from the sharp knife cutting the meat.
- Serving Platter: After carving your turkey, you can move the carved meat to your serving platter. The platter should be big enough to carry the whole bird to the dinner table.
- Prepare Your Carving Station: Put your carving board on an even surface with sufficient elbow room. Place your turkey on the carving board with the breast facing upwards and cut or remove the string holding the legs together.
- Remove the Legs and Thighs: Use a sharp knife to slice into the fold between the thigh and the body. Keep slicing downwards until you reach the thigh joint. Hold the turkey leg with one hand and push downward to expose the thigh joint. Cut through it until you separate the thigh from the body. Do the same with the other leg and thigh and place the pieces to the side.
- Remove the Wings: After removing the dark meat (legs and thighs), the white meat is next (the breast and wings). Use your sharp knife to slice between the wing and the breast. Keep cutting until you reach the joint. Bend the wing back to expose the joint and slice through it and the remaining meat. Use the same process to remove the other wing.
- Remove Turkey Breasts: Locate the breastbone at the center of the turkey chest and use your carving knife to make a deep cut along one side of the breastbone. Follow the curve of the bone and keep cutting as close to the breastbone as possible. While cutting, use one hand to pull the breast gently until it comes off. Repeat the process with the other breast.
- Slice the White Meat: Your turkey breasts should be skin-side up on the carving board. Depending on your preferred serving portions, you can cut the breasts into half or quarter-inch thick slices. If the slice is under a quarter-inch, the meat may not retain heat and moisture. Keep your slices neat and the breast skin intact by slicing against the grain with long, deliberate strokes. After slicing, transfer the white meat to your serving platter.
- Slice the Dark Meat: Use your paper towels to clean the turkey juices from your carving board and hands. Bring the thighs back to the carving board and use your knife to cut the joint connecting the drumsticks and thighs. After separating the thighs from the drumsticks, slice the meat off the thighs with your knife. Transfer the whole drumsticks and sliced thighs to your serving platter. You should also cut the wings in half and place them on the platter.
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