How To Carve a Turkey: The Simplest, Easiest Method

updated Nov 22, 2022
How To Carve a Turkey
The simplest, easiest way to carve a turkey in four essential steps. You'll need a sharp knife and a steady workstation, but not much else.
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

So you’ve roasted a beautiful, golden-brown turkey. Congratulations! Now you need to carve it. It’s not difficult, though: You’ll just need a sharp knife and a steady workstation.

We recommend carving 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.

What You’ll Need

  • A sharp knife. A chef’s knife works just fine, but you can use a carving knife if you wish
  • A big cutting board, that’s been stabilized with a towel beneath, so it doesn’t move around.
  • A serving platter, tongs, and paper towels are helpful.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Step-by-Step Guide to Carving a Turkey

  • Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes (at least). Resting helps the meat reabsorb the juices.
  • Set up your carving station. 
  • Separate the leg and thigh from one side.
  • Separate the drumstick from the thigh bone.
  • Remove the breast and wing from the same side. 
  • Repeat with the other side.
  • Slice up the breast and thigh pieces.

Do I Need a Carving Knife?

Simply put, no. A chef’s knife will work just fine, though you’re welcome to use them if you like.

Serve Right Away

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.

A List of Turkey Recipes

Need to Store Leftovers?

How To Carve a Turkey

The simplest, easiest way to carve a turkey in four essential steps. You'll need a sharp knife and a steady workstation, but not much else.

Nutritional Info


  • 1 roasted

    and rested turkey ((get instructions here)


  • Large cutting board, preferably with channels to catch the juices
  • Sharp chef's knife
  • Paper towels
  • Tongs
  • Serving platter


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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Remove the wing. Pull the wing back, as you did the legs, and cut at the joint. Place on the platter.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Slice the thighs. Cut the thigh meat off the bone and into smaller pieces, if desired. Return to the platter.

  9. 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.

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