How to Carve a Turkey


Cooking turkey at home is such a big deal for it is usually done for Thanksgiving and other grand dinners only. However, the magnificence of that all-time favorite lean meat is all for naught if you cannot serve it well. Let’s face it – most of us have no idea how to carve a turkey properly. If you are not adept at carving a turkey, you are more likely to give less meat on the table. Your finished product might not be even presentable enough. Say goodbye to this common kitchen problem as we give you tips on how to carve a turkey like a pro.

How to Prepare

Everything needs to be A-OK in the kitchen before you start carving the meat. Let’s learn the preparations first before proceeding to the guidelines on how to carve a turkey.

  • Ensure the turkey is thoroughly cooked.

    The best way to inspect if the turkey is already cooked to the bones is by placing it on a clean, wide chopping board made of wood. Following this suggestion would make it easier for you to check the quality. A metal surface conducts heat since you have to inspect the meat right after it comes out of the oven or electric smoker.

    To check the meat, pull away one leg. If the juices are already clear, then the turkey is already cooked perfectly.

  • Let the turkey rest for a while.

    Before carving the turkey, let it cool down first. Let it rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes. Aside from protecting your fingers from the heat, leaving the turkey untouched for several minutes also spreads the juices all over the meat. The result will be so delicious since the meat is moist. To make it even more delicious in the first place, you can use some barbecue rubs when it is still raw.

    You may also lightly cover the turkey with foil to preserve the heat even for just a little bit. Doing this will also make the meat firmer but still juicier than ever. While waiting, you are free to do other tasks such as cooking last-minute dishes.

  • Pick the right kind of knife.

    A carving knife should be thinner and longer than a chef’s knife. Its length is crucial since every slice must be smooth and neat. To be more specific, the blade must extend approximately five centimeters from the meat on both sides. This ensures clean, thin strips because you need more room for the sawing motion while slicing the meat.

    Another way to guarantee perfect slices is by using a big carving fork to safely hold the meat while you carve. The fork must be short and has curved prongs.

    When it comes to blades you cannot use for carving meat, avoid choppers and serrated knives. You may use an ordinary knife to divide the turkey into joints.

  • Free the turkey from any restraint.

    After resting the turkey, take off the foil and trussing strings, if any. It goes without saying that the whole meat should be bare for easier carving.

How to Remove the Wishbone

The first thing you need to do after preparation is take off the wishbone. It is totally okay to stick to the tradition of breaking this meaningful bone into two. We recommend drying the bone for a couple of days before pulling it apart with someone and making a wish afterwards.

The tradition states that whoever has the longer or larger side will have their wish turn to reality. Some people even consider the shorter side as a sign of marriage.

Here are two easy steps on how to remove this V-shaped bone from the turkey:

  • Expose the wishbone’s location.

    You cannot remove the wishbone easily if there is still skin on the turkey breast’s neck-end. So, take off a small portion of the skin to expose the meat.

  • Find the wishbone.

    Use your index finger to enter the cavity where the wishbone is. Move your finger around the cavity to locate the bone. Once you are sure about what you are holding, closely cut around the bone. Be careful not to break the bone and damage the meat.

How to Carve the Legs

Finally, the carving process commences! It starts with the turkey’s legs for they can be distracting when you choose to carve the breasts first. Check out this step-by-step guide on how to carve a turkey by focusing on its legs first:

  • Separate the leg from the body.

    Do this step one leg at a time. Along the hip joint, cut it gently with a knife. Allow the leg to separate itself slowly from the body. Remove it completely only when it finally separates from its original position. Expect the joint to snap easily once you put a little force on it. If it does not happen, cut it with a knife. Feel free to put more force as you use the blade.

  • Take more meat.

    To make this happen, ensure that you carve closer to the body. Do not forget to include the section near the back part. The oyster, a big portion of meat found on the back’s base, is so soft and juicy that it should be rewarded to the one who cooked the turkey. It is probably the best part of the whole meat.

  • Make smaller portions.

    Be generous in carving a turkey. You must give everybody a fair share of tasty meat. So, cut each leg directly at its knee joint. It is so easy to spot the joint; just feel it with your fingers. It is also a breeze to cut it since it is a soft bone.

  • Proceed to the thigh meat.

    To perfectly slice this section, hold the thigh meat with the carving fork. The slices should be parallel to the bone. This step can be time-consuming, so you can definitely ask somebody to do this for you while you proceed to carve the other leg or even the breasts.

    For a more enjoyable dining experience, separate the slices on the serving platter according to their sections since everybody has their own favorite part.

How to Carve the Breasts

Now that the turkey is free from any obstruction, it is time for you to carve the breasts. Find out the steps you need to know on how to carve a turkey right after you finish carving the legs:

  • Use the breastbone as a guide.

    Cut through the rest of the turkey by following its breastbone. The result is two big portions of full, juicy meat.

  • Separate the meat from the entire body.

    Position the knife carefully to ensure smooth removal of the meat from the carcass. This way, you will also include the wing joint. Do not leave any full meat behind. The breasts will just come off easily in this step.

  • Remove the wing tips.

    Take off the wing tips for an easier carving of the breasts. You can either discard them completely or use them for stew.

  • Slice the meat thoroughly.

    You may choose between thick or thin strips. Thicker slices retain heat longer, but they can be too heavy for some people. On the other hand, thinner slices need to be served immediately.

    Before claiming that everything is ready, make sure to scoop out the stuffing first. All kinds of stuffing taste heavenly with meat. So, forgetting about it would be such a waste.

How to Carve a Turkey

For first-time carvers, it is okay if the end results are kind of messy. Practicing on smaller turkeys may enhance your carving skills. In summary, just remember the four main steps on how to carve a turkey: preparation, wishbone removal, leg carving, and breast carving.

Aside from the usual roast turkey, you can also use include this meat for a certain chili dish and more unique burger patties.