Kitchen & Cooking

How to carve a Thanksgiving turkey like a pro

This tutorial will transform your turkey carving.

How to carve a Thanksgiving turkey like a pro Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

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If you’ve ordered your turkey and sides, made up your mind about desserts, and learned how to roast your turkey, carving is the last step to pull off a successful Thanksgiving meal. With the right tools and some general knowledge of poultry, turkey carving isn’t out of reach for most people. Here’s how to carve a turkey.

How to carve a turkey like a pro

How to carve the turkey
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

Carving a whole turkey is easy—all you need is a sharp knife.

What You Need:

  • A large cutting board
  • A carving knife
  • A carving fork
  • A large plate or serving platter
  • Paper towels
  • Optional: A pair of poultry shears

  • Time Needed

    25 minutes




    Step 1: Pull the legs

    Cut the legs
    Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

    Find the natural seam that separates the dark and white meats and let it guide your knife.

    After letting the turkey rest for at least half an hour, place the turkey on a cutting board with the cavity facing you. Carefully cut through the skin where the thigh meets the body. Then, you should be able to see the natural seam separating the dark and white meats. Let the seam guide your knife when cutting the leg until the thigh pops off and you can easily remove the legs. It shouldn’t take too much effort as you’re only cutting through the connective tissues. Use your carving fork as needed to stabilize your bird.

    Step 2: Remove the wishbone

    With the turkey breasts facing up, try to locate the wishbone. Gently cut an upside-down V shape along the wishbone and remove any connective tissue still connected to the bone, this should allow you to pull it out. This step will help you take out the breast meat more easily.

    Step 3: Cut the breasts

    Cut in the middle
    Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

    Carving against the breastbone can help you cut a large chunk of breast meat.

    Locate the breastbone, which is also called “keel bone” as its shape resembles the keel of a boat (it may help if you picture this while carving the bird). You can start by cutting straight down and then cutting to the side along the breastbone, while trying not to destroy the integrity of the skin. Use your non-dominant hand to stabilize the bird while you’re cutting. The breast should fall off once you reach the wing section of the turkey.

    Step 4: Slice the breast meat

    Slice the breast meat
    Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

    Using a sharp knife can help protect the skin from breaking apart.

    On a flat surface, slice the turkey breast with skin side up, keeping the skin as intact as possible. You’ll want to slice the meat against the grain on a bias. Repeat this step with the other breast. Set aside.

    Step 5: Remove the wings

    Remove the wings
    Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

    The wings should come off easily.

    Using your carving knife, gently slice the wings off the body at the joint. Alternatively, you should be able to twist the wings at the joint to detach them from the body. Set aside.

    Step 6: Debone the thighs and drumsticks

    Separate the leg from the thigh
    Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

    Alternatively, a pair of poultry shears can help you debone the thighs and legs.

    Twist the joint between the thigh and lower leg to break the two sections apart. Place the thigh on the cutting board with skin side down. Using the tip of your knife, gently cut the meat along the thigh bone while simultaneously rolling the bone. Repeat with the legs. (I prefer doing this with a pair of poultry shears because they offer more precision.) Slice the deboned thigh and leg meats against the grain on a bias.

    Step 7: Plating

    Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

    Remember to separate the dark and white meats when plating.

    Transfer the sliced turkey meat to a platter of your choice, making sure to separate light and dark meat. Garnish with herbs, apples, or cranberries for a festive presentation.

    After you’re done carving the turkey, you can save the wings and carcass to make a delicious turkey stock for later use.

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