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How to Carve a Turkey (Step-by-Step)

Learn how to carve a turkey like a pro! It’s easy, promise. I’ll walk you through it step-by-step and show you on video, so you can create a stunning, photo-worthy Thanksgiving platter.

Carved turkey on a serving dish on a table.

After you’ve roasted the most succulent, perfectly golden turkey recipe, do it justice by presenting it beautifully. Carving the turkey the right way not only looks like a masterpiece on the table, but it ensures the proper meat-to-skin ratio in every bite. And that makes everyone happy!

So don’t be intimidated, you’ve got this. Just grab a sharp knife and lets get carving.

First Things First, Let The Turkey Rest

After you’ve pulled the turkey from the oven, don’t be overzealous and slice into it right away. Let the turkey rest for a good 30 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute within the meat, which means more juice in your turkey than on your cutting board.

Roasted turkey resting on a wooden board before carving.

Carving a Turkey: Step-By-Step

First, slice off the legs and thighs. To do this, slice through the skin between the leg and the breast. Then pull back on the leg, laying it flat outward, and push up on the joint from underneath. You may hear a slight pop. At that point, use your knife to cut around the joint and remove the leg and thigh completely. Repeat this process on the other side and set these pieces aside.

Slicing off the leg of a Thanksgiving turkey in the carving process.

Remove the breasts. Slice down on either side of the breast bone, using long strokes. As your knife hits the bottom, use your thumb to gently pull the breasts outward, continuing to slice down and out until the breast meat is removed. If needed, you can slice horizontally at the bottom of the breast from the outside to help remove it. Repeat this process on the other side and set the breasts aside.

Carving out the breast of a Thanksgiving turkey.

Remove the wings. Gently pull the wings away from the body and slice through the joint to remove it. You can remove the wing tips (there’s really no meat here), and they’re great for stocks. Then set the wings aside.

Carving out the wing tip from a turkey.

Separate the drumstick from the thigh. Now that all the meat is removed from the turkey, flip this piece over so it’s skin side down and you can see the natural separation between the drumstick and the thigh. Slice through the meat and gently pull pack on the drumstick to expose the joint, then slice through it. You’ll have two pieces, the drumstick and the thigh.

Carving out the drumstick from the thigh of a Thanksgiving turkey

Remove the bone from the thigh. Use your knife to slice around the thigh bone, preserving as much meat as possible.

Carving out the wing from a Thanksgiving turkey

Slice up the meat. There’s two things to remember here. First, slice against the grain for tender pieces of meat. And second, use a very sharp knife to keep the skin attached to each piece.

Carving a turkey into pieces.

Plating a Carved Turkey

Once all your meat is sliced up, you can arrange it on a platter. There’s really no right way to do this. It depends on the size of your platter and any extra garnishes, like herbs, lemons, cranberries, apples, etc. you may have. So feel free to play around with the arrangement.

I just try to make sure the most golden pieces, like the breasts and drumsticks take center stage. Then, I’ll fill in any gaps with garnishes.

Serve it Right Away

As soon as the meat is removed from the turkey it will cool quickly. So make sure all your Thanksgiving side dishes, salads, sauces, and other goodies are cooked, on the table, and ready to be enjoyed. Then swoop in with your beautifully carved turkey and wow your guests with the centerpiece of the table.

A plate of carved turkey with sage and lemons.

More Thanksgiving Recipes to Enjoy

What goes great with turkey? Gravy and cranberry sauce of course! And these reader favorite recipes.

Watch How I Carve a Turkey

Want to see how I carve a turkey? Watch the video below!

5 from 11 votes

How to Carve a Turkey Like a Pro

Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Servings: 14 servings (for a 14 pound turkey)
Author: Lisa Bryan
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Learn how to carve a turkey like a pro! It's easy, promise. Make sure to watch the video above! With just a few slices, you'll have a stunning, photo-worthy Thanksgiving platter.

Ingredients

  • 1 roasted turkey
  • any garnishes like lemon slices, cranberries, fresh herbs, etc.

Instructions

  • Remove the legs and thighs by slicing through the skin between the leg and the breast. Then pull back on the leg, laying it flat outward, and push up on the joint from underneath. You may hear a slight pop. At that point, use your knife to cut around the joint and remove the leg and thigh completely. Repeat this process on the other side and set these pieces aside.
    Carving
  • Remove the breasts by slicing down on either side of the breast bone, using long strokes. As your knife hits the bottom, use your thumb to gently pull the breasts outward, continuing to slice down and out until the breast meat is removed. If needed, you can slice horizontally at the bottom of the breast from the outside to help remove it. Repeat this process on the other side and set the breasts aside.
  • Remove the wings by gently pulling them away from the body and slice through the joint to remove it. You can remove the wing tips (there's really no meat here), then set aside.
  • Separate the drumstick from the thigh by flipping this piece over so it's skin side down. Slice through the meat and gently pull pack on the drumstick to expose the joint, then slice through it. You'll have two pieces, the drumstick and the thigh.
    Removing the drumstick from a carved turkey.
  • Remove the bone from the thigh by using your knife to slice around the thigh bone, preserving as much meat as possible.
    Removing the thigh bone from a carved turkey
  • Carve the final pieces. Just slice against the grain for tender pieces of meat, and try to keep the skin attached to each piece.
    Carving a roasted turkey into small pieces.
  • Arrange all of the pieces on a platter and add any garnishes.
    A carved turkey on a platter with garnishes.

Lisa's Tips

  • The platter I'm using is perfect if your turkey is 13 pounds or less. For a bigger turkey, use a larger platter.
  • Wondering if pink turkey meat is safe to eat? Read this information from the USDA.

Nutrition

Calories: 96kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 26mg, Sodium: 168mg, Potassium: 33mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 332IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 11mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Carving a turkey, How To Carve A Turkey
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24 comments on “How to Carve a Turkey (Step-by-Step)”

  1. Very good information. But is there a video also? I can’t seem to find one.

    Thanks.

  2. Wonderful information here. Your step by step pictures are great.

  3. Thank you for this detailed recipe! Great photos as well!

  4. Loving the step by step photos! So useful for a carving novice like myself!

  5. Such a beautifully carved turkey! I have always struggled with this a bit, so definitely appreciate all the tips. Gorgeous plating with the lemon and herbs too.

  6. Looks so delicious! Can’t wait to try this one. I know my family would love it!

  7. Hey Lisa been a huge fan for awhile and thanksgiving is my favorite holiday I’m sure to take it off every year. I think this year I’m going to witch up my recipe (usually brine and do a spicy sweet rub) and try out yours, it looks amazing! I did have a question lastly when I cook my turkey and carve the legs it looks bright pink like yours did in the pictures, is this normal and the turkey is still cooked? Or does it need a little longer ( like on food network where they separate the legs and cook them a little longer) the first few years I didn’t notice that (but my turkeys were dry and over cooked in the breast part). Long comment short I just want to yield the best results and a juicy favorful bird. Thank you for any Info I really appreciate it.

    • Hi Sarah – I can’t wait to hear what you think of my recipe! As for the color, it is normal to have some pink around the joints. This could be due to the age of the turkey, or chemical processes that take place while cooking (I just added a link in the notes section on the recipe card). As long as the temperature of your meat has reached 165F after it’s rested, that’s the best gauge of being done.

  8. I feel confident now carving a turkey – your video and step by step instructions make it so easy and totally not intimidating!

  9. Super thanks to you! Finally, I can do it properly and looks like a pro! <3 Will definitely try this!

  10. What a perfect tutorial and just in time! The photos make it so easy to follow!

  11. I’m definitely bookmarking this post for Thanksgiving! I always think I’m great at carving a Turkey until it comes to it!

  12. There is so much great advice here. I will be saving this for Christmas day.