How to Carve a Turkey

For a Thanksgiving dinner that looks as good as it tastes, it's essential to know the best way to carve a turkey. Our step-by-step instructions will show you how.

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How to Carve a Turkey: Step-by-Step

Carving a turkey is an important part of any holiday feast, but it can be a daunting task for first-timers and pro slicers alike. Luckily, we have step-by-step tips for carving a turkey. We'll walk you through the whole process so you'll be ready come Thanksgiving day.

  1. Start by placing your turkey on a large cutting board, preferably with a troughlike groove around the perimeter to catch the juices (which can be drizzled over the carved turkey on the serving platter).
  2. Remove the leg portions by pulling the drumsticks away from the body and cutting the joints between the thighs and body.
  3. Carve each entire breast half away from the breast bone and rib cage. Place the whole breast halves on the cutting board.
  4. Slice the breast halves crosswise (across the grain of the meat). If desired, cut wings off the turkey frame, cutting at the joints.
  5. Hold the leg portions on the cutting board with a large fork; cut through the joints to separate the thighs and drumsticks. Cut the meat slices away from the bones.

Kitchen vs. Dining Room

There's more than one way to slice a bird. One way is referred to as the kitchen way. The other is the "carving at the table" dining room show. 

Kitchen-Style: Kitchen-style slices the breast off the bone whole, as you would for chicken. The breast is then cut into slices by cutting across the grain the width of the breast. The slices fit onto crowded plates more easily, and since the meat is cut against the grain, the pieces tend to hold together better. Theoretically, this results in more moist and tender meat.

Dining Room-Style: This method fits the classic concept of carving the roasted bird at the dining room table, and it requires less room to carve since the breast is left on the bone. To carve the breast meat, make a deep horizontal cut into the breast above each wing. This cut will be the end point of the breast meat slices. Then remove the wings by cutting through the joint where the wing bone and backbone meet. To continue carving the breast meat, beginning at the outer edge of one side of the breast, cut slices from the top of the breast down to the horizontal cut. Make the slices thin and even. Final smaller slices can follow the curve of the breastbone. Repeat on the other side of the breast.

No matter how you choose to cut the breast, follow these same steps for cutting the rest of the turkey: 

Slice off the leg and thigh: Grasp the tip of one drumstick with your fingers and pull the leg away from the body. Cut through the skin and meat between the drumstick-thigh piece and body. This exposes the joint where the thighbone and backbone connect. With the tip of a knife, disjoint the thighbone from the backbone by cutting through the joint. Repeat on other side.

Separate the thigh and drumstick: Cut through the joint where the leg and thigh bones meet. Repeat on the other piece.

Cut the drumstick into slices: Hold the drumstick vertically by the tip with the large end down. Slice meat parallel to the bone and under some tendons, turning the leg to get even slices.

Slice the thigh meat: Cut slices parallel to the thigh bone. Repeat with the remaining drumstick and thigh.

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