How to Carve a Turkey

Carving a turkey is a time-honored tradition often celebrated in our holidays — whether it's time for the Thanksgiving feast, Christmas carving, Boxing Day celebration, or you've simply taken it upon yourself to rebalance the books after one annual Presidential turkey pardon too many. Though daunting to some who haven't tried, and even some who have, the great news is that carving a turkey is a fairly straightforward process.

Step 1

Set your bird on a large chopping board. Assuming the legs are tied together, clip away any string with the tip of your knife. (You won't get far if the bird's shy.) With the breast-side facing upward, firmly press down on the wings until you hear a “pop".

Step 2

Look at that stage fright. Let’s loosen that bird up! First, firmly slice through the wing joint to sever the remaining connective tissue and skin. Once you’ve plucked it completely free, repeat this on second side.

Step 3

Your next destination is the groove where the turkey breast and leg meet. Remove one leg sections by slicing deep into that crook — you’ll leave it hanging on for now — then give the other side the same treatment. Push down on both thigh sections until you hear the next popping sound, then finish separating the legs and set them aside. That thick, hallow carcass beneath might prove a frustration, so chop it free with a cleaver at your leisure.

Family gathered at the table with a roasted Turkey centerpiece

Step 4

Here’s one way to do this next part: slice through the bottom of the breast, right over the wishbone. Atop the breast, feel for the keel bone along the center. Once you’ve found your bearings, begin making slices inward toward that bone. Note that the quality of your carving knife will bottleneck how paper-thin you can slice that turkey.

Step 5

For the other breast, here’s the other method: first, slice down the side of the thigh. Take it around the wishbone and follow the keel bone up until you carve free the bulk of the breast meat. Finally, make thin slices across the breast, dividing it into perfect slivers of turkey greatness. Again, the caliber of your carving knife caps how thinly you can slice.

Step 6

Time to bring back the legs and thighs. Take either piece and slice straight through the center, reaching that connective joint. Flex them apart, then cut through the lingering tissue until they separate. Follow this with the other piece.

Step 7

To slice through the thigh, dig out the central bone with your boning knife. Give it the surgical treatment until it’s mostly free, then lift the bone and — you guessed it — slice through any remaining connective tissue. Get your bingo cards ready, because you’ll repeat with the other thigh.

Slicing into turkey

Step 8

Those thighs are ready for work, so tag your carving knife back in and give them the old slicing treatment. Say it along with us: “The quality of your carving knife decides how thin your slices can be.” You don’t want mashed turkey slices, do you?

Step 9

Back to those giant drumsticks, and it’s decision time again. Do you want to leave them as-is? Perfectly valid. If you’d rather dispense with the bones, make an orbital cut about half an inch below the meat on the bone to sever that tenuous cartilage and tissue. Next, hold the drumstick vertical against the cutting board by its handle — that is to say, bone side up. Simply carve off the remaining meat; you’ll likely wind up with a juicy pile of tall, isosceles cuts.

Step 10

Congratulations: you’re done! Platter that turkey for the table and prepare to dig in.

Plated carved turkey with gravy

Bonus: What Should I Do With the Turkey Bones?

For added benefit, pick that turkey carcass practically clean and refrigerate it (preferably for a few hours or less) until you’re ready to make some fantastic turkey stock — it makes an excellent base for sauces, stews, gravies, and more. Turkey stock is a great way to make the most out of your carved bird, and it’s the simplest thing in the world to do.

Simply add all your remaining bones to a stock pot with 2 peeled and quartered onions, 2 full carrots, 1 sprig of thyme, half of a sliced lemon, and 2 bay leaves, then add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, then spend 2–3 hours bookmarking our recipes and watching the BBQGuys YouTube channel — once the hour’s up, strain the broth! It’ll store fresh in an airtight container for 3–4 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.