Do you know How to Carve a Turkey? Once you’ve put in all that time and effort prepping and cooking the turkey, you want to make sure it’s done right. My tried-and-true steps and useful tips are here to help!

carved turkey on a platter

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I remember the first time I had to carve a turkey.

The task seemed tedious, terrifying, and important all at the same time.

Learning how to carve a turkey for beginners does not have to be stressful or overly time-consuming.

With the right tools and process, you can have a showcase-worthy bird ready to serve in no time!

sliced carved turkey

The Best Way to Carve a Turkey

These step-by-step instructions for how to carve a turkey with pictures will help you feel like a Thanksgiving pro!

Before we get started, here are the tools you’ll need to carve your turkey:

  • Knife. For this tutorial, we’re learning how to carve a turkey with a knife. While I generally use an electric carving knife, any sharp boning or chef’s knife will work just fine.
  • Carving Board. Aside from the sharp knife, a carving board is an incredibly helpful tool to have. The ridges help hold the meat in place while you’re cutting, and grooves in the board will catch any juices (no slimy countertops!).
  • Serving Platter. While not an absolutely essential item, showcasing all your hard work on a beautiful platter is deeply satisfying (and the platter will look wonderful on your table!). This one is festive and dishwasher-safe. Having your Thanksgiving meal outdoors (lucky!)? Try this sturdy melamine option with handles.

Tip!

Let your turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. This critical step allows the juices to reincorporate into the meat, resulting in a more tender and moist turkey.

The Directions

cutting twine off of turkey legs to prepare for carving
  1. Once you’ve let your turkey rest (DO NOT skip this!), place the turkey on a carving board with the legs facing you. If your turkey has a string holding the legs together, snip it away with a pair of scissors and discard.
separating turkey thigh from the whole turkey
  1. Start by pulling the legs back and away from the body, until you hear the thigh bones pop. (If you’re having trouble getting them to snap, use your hand to put pressure on the joint; if you’re using an electric knife, you may not need to snap them all the way, but pulling will help you see the right spot to cut.) Cut the legs off where they connect to the breast and place them on your plate (leave the drumsticks connected for now).
step by step photos of how to cut away the breast meat from a turkey
  1. Cut the breast meat off the turkey one side at a time, slicing downward as close to the breast bone as you can. Place the breasts on the platter.
removing wings from a turkey when carving
  1. Remove the wings by pulling and cutting them at the joints. Place them on your serving platter. Transfer the turkey carcass to a separate platter or back to your roasting pan. Wipe your carving board clean with a paper towel.
carving dark meat turkey
  1. Place the thighs back on your carving board. Pull the thighs and drumsticks apart at the joints.
slicing dark turkey meat
  1. Carve these pieces of meat by making cuts parallel to the bones. Return the sliced meat to your platter.
carving turkey breast
  1. Place the breasts on your carving board. With the skin facing up, carve the turkey breasts crosswise against the grain, creating slices that are about 1/4-inch thick. Return the sliced meat to your platter. Beautiful work, ENJOY!
beautiful carved turkey on a platter

Recommended Tools to Carve a Turkey

Easy-to-Use Electric Knife

This high-quality electric knife comes with a carving fork, cutting board, and storage tray. The blades are dishwasher-safe too.

carved turkey on a platter
carved turkey on a platter

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Benefits of an Electric Knife?

Electric knives are a wonderful tool for cutting meats, bread, and more. While most of us only think to pull ours out on Thanksgiving, these knives are a tool you can use year-round. Using an electric knife means you don’t have to do any sawing, and the quick-moving blade is able to slice through meat cleaning and quickly.

Do I Have to Carve the Entire Turkey at Once?

No, you do not have to carve the entire turkey at once. If you’re feeding a smaller group of people and know you’ll have leftovers, you can only carve what you think you’ll need for the meal. However, once you’ve started the carving process and have all your tools out, I’ve found it’s easier to go ahead and knock it all out.

Should I Separate Dark Meat and White Meat While Carving?

If you know that some of your guests prefer white meat over dark meat or vice versa, you should arrange the meat on your platter accordingly. Place any meat from the turkey legs on one half (the dark meat) and any meat from the breasts and wings on the other half (the light meat).

carved turkey on a platter

How to Carve a Turkey

How to carve a turkey like a pro! This step-by-step guide will tell you how to create a beautiful carved turkey. No special equipment needed!

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 20 mins

Servings: 10 (to 12) servings, 1 14-pound turkey

Ingredients
  


Instructions
 

  • Once you’ve let your turkey rest (DO NOT skip this!), place the turkey on a carving board with the legs facing you. If your turkey has a string holding the legs together, snip it away with a pair of scissors and discard.
  • Start by pulling the legs back and away from the body, until you hear the thigh bones pop. (If you’re having trouble getting them to snap, use your hand to put pressure on the joint; if you’re using an electric knife, you may not need to snap them all the way, but pulling will help you see the right spot to cut.) Cut the legs off where they connect to the breast and place them on your plate (leave the drumsticks connected for now).
  • Cut the breast meat off the turkey one side at a time, slicing downward as close to the breast bone as you can. Place the breasts on the platter.
  • Remove the wings by pulling and cutting them at the joints. Place them on your serving platter. Transfer the turkey carcass to a separate platter or back to your roasting pan. Wipe your carving board clean with a paper towel.
  • Place the thighs back on your carving board. Pull the thighs and drumsticks apart at the joints.
  • Carve these pieces of meat by making cuts parallel to the bones. Return the sliced meat to your platter.
  • Place the breasts on your carving board. With the skin facing up, carve the turkey breasts crosswise against the grain, creating slices that are about 1/4-inch thick. Return the sliced meat to your platter. Beautiful work, ENJOY!

Notes

  • Check out my Leftover Turkey Recipes post for all the best turkey storage tips and ways to repurpose any leftovers. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 10); 1 14-pound turkeyCalories: 636kcalProtein: 98gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 325mgPotassium: 1010mgSugar: 0.3gVitamin A: 252IUCalcium: 50mgIron: 4mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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