How to Carve a Turkey
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How To Carve A Turkey (video tutorial)
Preparing an oven-roasted whole turkey is a challenge in and of itself, but carving the bird and making it look presentable is a challenge, too! With my step-by-step video tutorial, you can overcome the fear once and for all and learn how to carve a turkey like a pro! After doing this just once, you’ll have no fear of carving any type of whole-roasted bird!
Watch My Video!
Watch my video recipe for all the details to learn how to carve a turkey! Want to receive new recipe emails in your inbox? Make sure to subscribe to my website and my YouTube channel and turn on notifications!
Prepare Your Turkey
The first step is preparing your turkey! Check out my recipes for ‘Garlic Butter Turkey’ and ‘Smoked Turkey’ – both are great options for Thanksgiving or the holidays!
Once your turkey is done baking with an internal temperature of 165F, allow the turkey to rest in the roasting pan for about 20 minutes, basting a few times with the juices. Allowing the turkey to rest will let those juices sink into the meat and stay there! Once it’s rested, transfer the turkey onto a large carving board with a rim to catch all the juices.
Arrange all the pieces on a large platter and garnish with oranges, lemons, cranberries, fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and bay leaves.
Carving the Drumstick & Thigh
Using a sharp knife, begin with the drumsticks and thighs, which are attached together. Cut the drumstick away from the body and gently pull the drumstick away and down. A well cooked turkey will come apart very easily! Turn the drumstick down and find the thigh joint, cutting and pulling the thigh away. Separate the drumstick and thigh along the natural joint, then use a paring knife to cut away the bone from the thigh, keeping it as whole as possible. Serve the drumstick whole and slice the thigh into bite sized pieces.
Carving the Breast
Slice off the turkey breast next, starting from the top and allow your knife to be guided by the breast bone. Slice the breast into bite-sized pieces and keep the skin intact by gently holding it in place. Pull away the turkey wings last these are also composed of two pieces – the wing and the little drumstick. Separate the two and serve them whole.
You can use this carving technique not only for turkeys but also for other birds: duck, chicken and even geese! Check out my other recipes you’re sure to enjoy!
METHOD 2: TRADITIONAL TURKEY CARVING METHOD
Remove the tea towels and foil from the turkey and take it to the table on the serving platter. Bask in your family’s admiration at your perfectly cooked bird!
- Take the wings off in the same way as the previous method. Put them onto the platter.
- Cut along where the leg is attached to the breast. Carve straight down through the skin, using the fork to push out the leg and thigh, then cut through the ball joint at the knee so the drumstick separates from the thigh. Transfer that to the platter with the wing. Now slice the thigh from the carcass: follow the joints, don’t just hack through bone.
- Now you’ve got the wing and leg out the way, you can slice the breast. Use the tip of your fork to hold the turkey steady at the top of the breast. Then, using the whole length of the knife, carve 0.5cm-thick slices from the breast. As soon as you get halfway down the slice, use the fork to gently hold the slice in place until you finish.
- Use the knife and fork to transfer the slices to the platter, or directly onto someone’s plate. When you’ve taken all the meat off one breast, take the wing and leg off the other side, and repeat until you’ve carved as much as you need.
- To carve the dark thigh meat, use the fork to steady the thigh, then gently carve pieces from it – you probably want these to be a bit thicker than the slices from the breast.
For more turkey help, check out our ultimate guide to buying, prepping and cooking your bird .
- carving board, chef’s knife (or slicing knife), paper towels, platter, cutting board, long, flexible knife (or boning knife), tongs
- Remove the string
Place the turkey on a carving board. Remove the string tying the legs together using the tip of your chef’s knife.
- Remove the legs and thighs
Cut through the skin that connects the breast and the drumstick. Slice down until you reach the joint. Using a paper towel, grab the leg and push down, separating the leg and thigh from the bird. Use your chef’s knife to slice through the joint.
- Remove the drumsticks
Separate the drumstick and the thigh by cutting through the joint that connects them. Transfer the drumstick to a platter set aside the thigh meat on a cutting board to slice later. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other leg.
- Remove the wishbone
Find the wishbone at the front end of the breast. Use your fingers to pull it out.
How To Carve A Turkey Like A Pro
Carving a turkey can be a daunting task, but it's worth doing right after the hours you cooking the perfect turkey. Don't panic. It's not as scary as it sounds.
Tools You'll Need:
- Carving board (to catch all those juices!)
- Boning knife (If you don't have one, don't worry! You can carve the bird from start to finish with a chef's knife instead.)
Stressin' about those mashed potatoes, too? Check out our traditional Thanksgiving menu. This holiday is our Super Bowl, people. We gotchu.
Carving a turkey is hard work! Watch this video to make sure you get it right every time.
Just like with any meat, the turkey should rest before you slice into it. You don't want all those aromatic juices to spill out! After you take the bird out of the oven, place it on a carving board and tent it with foil for about 30 minutes.
Use kitchen shears or a chef's knive to remove the kitchen twine tying the legs together. Then, use your fingers to locate the wishbone at the front end of the breasts. Make incisions along the bone and pull it out with your hands.
(We consider the latter part optional, so feel free to skip it if the idea stresses you out. It does, however, make removing the breasts much easier.)
Using your chef's knife, slice through the skin connecting the thigh and breast. Push down on the thigh to separate the entire leg from the rest of the body. The socket joint should pop out. Then use your chef knife to cut through the joint to sever the leg and thigh meat completely. Repeat with other leg.
If you have a boning knife, now is the time to use it. Locate the breast bone and slice downward on one side of it, as close the bone as possible. As you slice, use your other hand to pull the meat away from the bone to help the breast come off in one big piece.
Using your chef's nice, cut through the joint that connects them. Transfer drumstick to a platter. Repeat with other leg.
Use your chef knife to cut through the wing joint. Repeat with other wing and transfer to the platter.
Having trouble with removing wings? Watch how to twist them off with your hands instead. (It's not a pretty process, but it's effective.)
Flip over each thigh and cut along the sides of the bone with the point of your knife to take it out. When the bone is out, turn the thigh back over and slice. Repeat with other thigh. (It's okay if your slices aren't perfect. Turkey thighs are always kinda messy.)
How to carve a turkey
For those of us who aren&rsquot as savvy in the kitchen as our mothers and grandmothers were, you&rsquore in luck.
We&rsquove got great step-by-step turkey carving tips that are sure to leave your guests impressed.
What you&rsquoll need:
- Cooked turkey
- Carving knife
- Carving fork
- Boning knife
- 1 or 2 cutting boards
Step 1: Cool off
Before you get too gung-ho about carving away at this year&rsquos bird, make sure you let it properly cool first. Whole Foods Market suggests letting the turkey rest for 20 to 30 minutes after taking it out of the oven. This allows the juices to saturate your turkey, making it that much more flavorful and delicious.
Cooking experts strongly suggest carving your turkey in the privacy of your kitchen and not at the table: Less pressure and less mess!
Step 2: Prep time
First things first: Wash your hands. While the carving fork can be of help as you cut up the bird, some prefer simply using their hands, so make sure they&rsquore nice and clean before you start. After you&rsquove washed up, set out your cutting boards, along with your knives and carving fork so they&rsquore easy to access.
Step 3: Time for the knife
Make sure your turkey is laid out so the breast bone is facing up. Start by slightly pulling one of the legs away from the body and carving through where the skin is loose. When you get to the hip socket, continue to pull the leg away from the body until the ball pops out of the socket. Cut this away until the leg comes cleanly off in one piece.
After you&rsquove removed the leg, separate the thigh from the drumstick by slicing through the ball joint. Simply feel for the bulge of the joint to find the correct spot to cut. Now take the thigh and cut out the bone by running the knife along both sides and cutting it away from the meat. You&rsquoll be left with a big piece of thigh meat to slice into equal serving sections. Repeat the same steps to remove and slice the meat on the other leg.
No need to cut the meat off the drumstick &mdash there&rsquos always someone who likes this part whole.
Step 4: The good stuff
Now it&rsquos time to prepare your breast meat. Start by cutting off the wings from the body of your turkey. For this step you can either twist the wing off or find the joint and cut around it until you can remove the wing from the body in one piece.
Set the wings aside and find the breast bone down the center of your turkey. Take your knife and cut along both sides of the bone, one side at a time. Be sure to carefully follow the line of the bone down the entire turkey as you make your way across the rib cage. Once you have both sides of breast meat separated from the bone, slice the meat into even, parallel lines. Remember, the more cleanly you slice this meat the more presentable it will be on the platter.
Step 5: Finishing touches
Fan your breast meat out across the platter, then place your drumsticks and thigh meat around the plate. Add some fresh herbs to the platter for presentation purposes, and you&rsquove now have a perfectly carved turkey on your hands!
Debone and Carve the Thighs
Position the thigh skin-side down on the cutting board. Using the tip of your knife, cut away the meat along one side of the thigh bone, then roll the bone the other way and cut along the other side. You should now be able to remove the thigh bone (set aside for making stock) while leaving the thigh muscle intact and the skin still attached.
Slice the thigh meat, against the grain and on a bias, about half an inch thick. Arrange the slices on your platter and repeat with the other thigh.
There are two ways to handle the breast: either carve it in thin slices directly from the bird or first remove the entire breast from the turkey and then cut it crosswise into neat slices. Here are instructions for the latter. Just above the thigh and wing, carve a deep horizontal cut through the breast to the bone to create a base cut. Slip your knife alongside the breastbone and slice downward, parallel to the breastbone, to meet the horizontal cut. You should be able to remove the entire breast half. Place it on a cutting surface and slice it crosswise to cut into thick medallions. Repeat on the other side.
You’ve already cut around the thigh so you should be able to pry each thigh away from the joint fairly easily and then use the knife to slice the thighs from the bird. If desired, cut each thigh into thick slices. Next, locate the joint between each wing and the breastbone and cut through the joints to remove the wings.
How To: Carve a Turkey
I really don’t remember the year I got passed the holiday turkey-carving baton at Mama’s house…I just remember the mess. Now, it’s a seamless operation for me. I could probably even compete with the best of them on turkey carving speed, but in the beginning, that wasn’t the case. Looking back, I wish I had a how-to article to read with photographs for reference like this one, but when I think about it, I guess I had something even better—my mama. Her, standing over my shoulder telling me every cut to make and a brother with his mouth open waiting, not so patiently, nearby made for a quick study. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
Step 1: Cut the band of skin holding the drumstick. Grasp the end of the drumstick. Then, place a knife between the drumstick/thigh and body of the turkey, and cut through skin to joint. Remove the entire leg by pulling out and back, using the point of the knife to disjoin it. Separate the thigh and drumstick at the joint.
Step 2: Make a long horizontal cut above the wing joint all the way through to the body frame. If you desire, the wing may be disjointed from the body at this point.
Step 3: Slice straight down with an even stroke at the top of the breast bone all the way through to the horizontal cut you made in the step prior.
Step 4: Remove the breast to a cutting board and slice starting at the smallest end to the largest.
Step 5: Repeat previous 4 steps on the opposite side of the bird.
Jamie’s Additional Carving Tips:
I always use mom’s Paula Deen Signature Cutlery Set when I carve my birds. Use a straight edge sharp knife for easier carving.
Be sure to allow your bird to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
Cut the dark meat before the light meat, as it will stay moist longer.
The key in removing the thighs, legs, and wings from the turkey’s body is to run your knife along the body until you find the places where bones meet. By cutting between joints, and not through bones, you can disconnect bones without much fuss.
Don’t throw away the leftover turkey parts or meaty bones—save them for stock. If you don’t have time to make stock right away, put the parts and meaty bones in a zip-top bag and place it in the freezer for future use.
To carve a turkey, you'll need to start with a turkey. There's one step that takes place before you roast it, so start with it raw.
Pull back the skin flap around the neck, and you'll locate the wishbone—the small, Y-shaped bone that runs along the top of both breast halves.
Make the first incision along the outside edge of one branch of the Y.
Then repeat that cut on the other side of the same branch, and repeat those two cuts on the other side. Finally, make a small horizontal incision at the very top of the bone, where the two branches meet.
Grab the top of the bone with your finger, and pry it forward. It should come away with little effort. If it's stuck, use the tip of a sharp boning knife to cut through stubborn spots.
With the wishbone removed, it's going to be a lot easier to carve your turkey later. Now your turkey is ready to roast. Check out the turkey recipes and techniques page in our Thanksgiving guide for all the recipes you need.
Roasted and ready? All right, Señor Gobbles. Time for your surgery.
Start by cutting the skin between the leg and the breast with a sharp chef's knife or boning knife, using a clean kitchen towel to hold the turkey in place with your free hand.
Once the skin is cut, pull the entire leg away from the body. It should separate quite easily, displaying the socket joint where the thigh meets the hip. Cut through this joint with the tip of your knife, and the leg should be completely free. Just slice through the skin to release it.
Isn't it frightening how easy it is to remove a limb? You now have a whole leg in front of you, alongside a disabled turkey.
Locate the joint between the drumstick and the thigh by moving them back and forth and feeling with your fingertip. Slice through this joint.
Repeat with the other leg.
Flip one thigh over, and cut along one side of the thigh bone to release a large chunk of meat.
Repeat with the other side of the thigh bone.
Slice the thigh meat into half-inch pieces, and transfer to a warm platter. Repeat with the other thigh. Add the drumsticks to the platter.
Locate the wing joint by articulating it, then slice through with a sharp chef's knife. Repeat with the other wing, then separate the drumettes from the flats, and transfer all four wing pieces to the platter.
Slice into the breast on one side of the breastbone with a sharp boning knife.
Continue slicing, following the contour of the breastbone with the tip of the knife to remove as much meat as possible.
As you continue to work, the breast meat should begin to pull away from the bone. Help it along with the side of your knife until it's completely separated.
Once the breast falls away from the bone, cut through the bottom edge to completely separate it.
Repeat with the other side. You should now have all of the meat removed. Save the carcass for soup, if desired.
Slice the breast meat with a sharp knife at a bias. Transfer to the warm platter.
And here's your turkey, ready to present to the table.