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How to Carve a Turkey

With these helpful tips and tricks, carving a turkey has never been so easy! This is the best way to carve a turkey for the holidays. 

Carved turkey on white plate.
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Best Way to Carve a Turkey

Roasted turkey is usually always on our Thanksgiving menu. If you’re on turkey duty this holiday season, there’s a few steps that are involved. You’ll first need to thaw the turkey, roast it in the oven (or make smoked turkey) and then carve into slices. It does require a bit of work, but it is oh so worth it!

Now that you’ve cooked your oven roasted turkey, it’s time to carve. Sometimes carving a turkey can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! It’s a lot easier than you may think and will look beautiful on a platter with fresh herbs.

Whether it’s the drumsticks, thighs, wings or breast, this post will show you how to easily carve each part of your holiday turkey. Serve the delicious sliced meat alongside your favorite side dishes for the ultimate holiday dinner. Then save any meat to make some of your favorite leftover turkey recipes!

How to carve a turkey chart.

How Long Should a Turkey Rest Before Carving?

I like to take the turkey out of the oven when it reaches 160°F and the leave the pan and cover with foil. Then I let it rest 30 minutes, so it gives it time to reabsorb the juices. If you slice the turkey soon, not only will you burn your fingers but the juices will run out causing a dry turkey.

Cutting turkey on cutting board.

Drumsticks and Thighs

These have darker meat and a little more flavor since they’re fattier than the breast. You’ll want to remove them first before anything else. Use your knife to slice through the skin that connects the leg to the breast until you hit the bone.

Grab the leg and pull it back until the joint pops out. Then separate the drumstick from the thigh. I like to leave the drumstick on the bone with the skin and then cut the meat off of the thigh into small slices.

Carving the Breast

The breast is the largest part of the turkey with the most white meat. The meat is more lean than the drumstick and thigh. After carving them first, then carve out the breast. Use your knife to make a slice along the breast bone, directly across the top of the turkey. Then make a slice down along the rib bone and remove the breast in one big piece.

Slice the breast meat at an angle against the grain. I like to make about 1/2 inch slices and leave the skin on for more flavor (you can remove it if you prefer). Then use a large spatula to lift the sliced breast in one piece onto the platter. It looks extra pretty this way!

Slicing turkey breast.

Helpful Tips

  • A high quality knife makes all the difference when carving a turkey. I’d recommend an electric carving knife or a large chef’s knife.
  • Be careful not to break the wishbone when carving! Remove it carefully so that you can partake in the fun holiday tradition with your family.
  • If you aren’t serving the turkey right away, place it on a baking sheet in the oven at 125°F. The temperature is high enough to keep it warm, but low enough so that it won’t dry out.
  • Have fun with the presentation! I love to add mine to a big white serving platter decorated with fresh herbs, cranberries and lemons.
  • Use the leftover carcass to make homemade turkey stock.
Sliced turkey on white plate.

Favorite Dishes to Serve Alongside

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sliced turkey on white plate

How to Carve a Turkey

5 from 1 vote
Author: Jamielyn Nye
With these helpful tips and tricks, carving a turkey has never been so easy! This is the best way to carve a turkey for the holidays. 
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Servings: 16


  • Carving knife, chef's knife or electric knife
  • Large cutting board (I prefer rimmed)


  • 1 roasted turkey (rested for 30-45 minutes)

Optional: Fresh herbs for platter such as rosemary, sage and parsley, cranberries and sliced lemons


    • After the turkey has rested for 15-30 minutes, move the turkey onto a large cutting board (I prefer rimmed). Grab a large chef's or carving knife.
    • Remove the legs and thighs. Slice through the skin connected to the bottom of the breast until you hit the bone.
    • Pull the leg back until the joint pops out and you can easily cut it. Separate the drumstick from the thigh. You can twist it off if needed. Remove the wishbone located between the neck and breast of a bird. Be careful, it will break easy.
    • Remove the breast. Slice directing across the top of the bird along the breast bone. Then slowly cut down along the rib bone and remove meat in one big piece.
    • Remove the wings. Pull the wing as far as you can back and then slice at the joint. Remove wing from drumette.
    • Slice the meat. Cut the thigh meat (darker meat) off the bone and into smaller slices. Then cu the breast meat against the grain and at an angle into slices. You can leave the skin on if desired. Use a spatula to lift the sliced breast onto the platter.
    • Arrange the meat on platter. Decorate with fresh herbs, cranberries and lemons if desired. Serve right away or cover with foil until ready to serve.


    Note: If not serving right away, you can cover the turkey with foil and place in the oven at 125°F. However, I prefer to carve the turkey just before serving.
    Course: Main Dish
    Cuisine: American

    Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

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