You did it! You roasted a beautiful, golden-brown, juicy turkey. But another challenge awaits before you can dig in: carving. Don't worry, though — carving a turkey isn't much harder than carving a roasted chicken. You'll need a sharp knife and a steady workstation, but not much else.
Here's the easiest way we know to carve a turkey, plus how to get the most meat off the bird (for Friday's turkey soup).
The Easiest Method for Turkey Carving Is the Simplest
This technique has you carve one side of the turkey at a time so that you aren't constantly moving the bird around. There's no flipping or turning it from side to side. Set the turkey on the cutting board with its cavity facing you and you should only need to turn the turkey once. Simple and easy — promise.
For Your Information
- You'll need a cooked and rested turkey for this method. The turkey can be roasted, fried, or even smoked.
- Grab the biggest cutting board you have. Bonus points for a cutting board with a trench for collecting juices. It's also handy to have a serving platter, tongs, and paper towels nearby before your start.
Step-by-Step Guide to Carving a Turkey
- Set up a carving station. Obvious, but helpful. Get your carving board, knife, and a serving platter ready before you start. A pair of tongs and paper towels are also helpful, but not always necessary.
- Remove the leg and thigh from one side. Position the turkey's cavity to face you — the leg and thigh will be closest to you. Use the knife to slice through the skin between the breast and the thigh so you can see inside. Then set the knife down and grab the thigh — paper towels, a clean kitchen towel, or better yet, gloves, are helpful if the bird is still warm — and push down until the thigh joint releases and pops out. Cut the thigh off, then set the leg and thigh aside on the serving platter.
- Remove the breast from that same side. Slice through the skin on the top of the turkey along the breastbone from the neck joint and the wishbone first. Then slowly work the knife through the breast meat, along the rib bone, removing as much meat as possible until it releases from the turkey. Set this breast on the platter as well.
- Remove the wing. Pull each back, as you did the legs, and cut at the joint. Set on the platter.
- Repeat on the other side. If you need to, turn the turkey so the neck is now facing you. Repeat removing the thigh and leg, then breast, then wing on the other side. At this point I like to stick my turkey carcass back in the roasting pan and cover it for making stock later in the evening.
- Slice up the breast and thigh pieces. Give your cutting board a wipe-down if needed. Then grab the thighs and cut the thigh meat off the bone and cut into smaller pieces, if desired. Finally, slice the breasts crosswise at a slight angle into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Do I Need a Carving Set for Turkey?
Simply put, no. You don't even need a carving knife for carving a turkey. Instead, reach for the biggest chef's knife you own — the one that feels comfortable in your hands is best. Likewise, you can use a carving knife or even an electric knife for carving using this same method, but for your first few forays, keep it simple with a sharp chef's knife.
Keep Your Turkey Warm for Serving
Remember that carving is going to cool your turkey significantly , so you'll want to serve it right away or cover it and stash in a warm oven until serving. If all else fails, warm up your turkey with plenty of hot gravy.
Read more: What's the Best Way to Keep a Turkey Warm?
A List of Turkey Recipes
How To Carve a Turkey
What You Need
1 roasted and rested turkey (get instructions here)
Large cutting board, preferably with channels to catch the juices
Sharp chef's knife
- Set up a carving station. Place the turkey on a large carving board. Make sure you have your serving platter, paper towels, a sharp chef's knife, and tongs at the ready. Remove the trussing string if needed using the tip of the knife and arrange the turkey so the legs are facing you.
- Remove the leg and thigh together. Slice through the skin that connects the breast and the drumstick until you hit bone. With your hands (and either paper towels or a clean kitchen towel), pull the leg back and down until the joint pops out. Press down firmly on the joint to completely sever it. Run the knife between the thigh and the back bone to cleanly remove the leg piece. Place on the serving platter.
- Remove the breast. Staying on the same side of the turkey, slice through the skin on the top of the turkey along the breastbone from the neck joint and the wishbone first. Then slowly work the knife through the breast meat, along the rib bone, removing as much meat as possible. Place this breast on the platter.
- Remove the wing. Pull the wing back, as you did the legs, and cut at the joint. Place on the platter.
- Turn the turkey and repeat steps 2 through 4 on the other side. Rotate the turkey 180 degrees and then repeat with removing the leg and thigh, breast, and wing on the other side.
- Set aside the turkey carcass and wipe down the cutting board. Remove the turkey carcass from your work area (you can set it back in the roasting pan or set it directly into a pot if you plan on making stock). Wipe down your cutting board if desired.
- Separate the thighs from the drumsticks. Place the leg pieces skin-side up on the cutting board. Cut right between the drumstick and thigh at the joint. Repeat with the other leg. Return the drumsticks to the platter.
- Slice the thighs. Cut the thigh meat off the bone and into smaller pieces, if desired. Return to the platter.
- Slice the breasts. Place the breasts skin-side up on the cutting board. Cut crosswise at a slight angle into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Return to the platter.