How to carve a turkey – let’s get down to the nitty gritty and go through each step of carving your beautiful bird! Let’s do it right!

It’s Thanksgiving, you’ve roasted a turkey and now you need to carve it for serving to your guests. There’s nothing that makes me more itchy than watching people carve a turkey. You guys, it should be family that bugs, but it’s the turkey. 🙂

A roasted whole turkey that is ready to be carved.

The first step to perfectly carving a turkey is to start with a bird that has rested. If you follow our oven roasted turkey recipe, you will have rested your turkey for 30 minutes. If the turkey hasn’t rested, the juices will run out all over the place and you will lose flavor and moistness. No bueno!

Remove any cooking twine you used to bind the turkey and any stuffing inside the bird if you went that route (p.s. just don’t do it! just make our no fuss make ahead stuffing or our sausage stuffing instead!). Now you are ready to carve!

How to Carve a Turkey

Legs and Thighs

Gently press a leg away from the body and start sliding your knife down through the skin and meat until you meet the joint. It’s easiest to cut straight down through the meat and then pop the joint clean apart and remove the leg and thigh, using your chef’s knife to slice through the joint if needed.

A photo of the leg and thigh being carved from the whole turkey.

Once you have the thigh and left removed, you can leave the two together or separate the leg and thigh. Totally up to you!

If you want them separate, slice the drumstick and the thigh apart by cutting through the joint that connects them together. Transfer the drumstick to a platter for the feisty drumstick lover to enjoy. Set aside the thigh meat on a cutting board to slice later. Repeat on the other leg. 

Working on the cutting board, hold the thigh bone with tongs or a paper towel. Remove the meat from the bone with the edge of the chef’s knife. Then slice through the meat, against the grain. The thighs and legs are done!

A photo of the leg and thigh removed from the whole roasted turkey.


It seems like people always want to dig right into the turkey breasts first thing, but it’s better if the legs and thighs have been removed first. Then you can move to removing the breasts.

Find the breastbone on top of the bird. Position a long, flexible knife on one side of the bone, as close as you can possibly get, and slice downward.

A photo of the breasts being carved from a whole roasted turkey.

At this point, I like to leave the breast meat and come at it from the bottom of the breast making a slice and then return to the top and finish slicing off the breast.

Repeat with the other breast, and transfer them both to the cutting board.

Using your hands or tongs, position the meat so you’ll cut it at its shorter length. Slice against the grain, taking care to keep the skin attached. Transfer pieces neatly to a platter.

A photo of a whole roasted turkey with the legs, thighs, and wings carved off.

Oh Sweet Basil Pro Tip:

In the movies you always see the bird on a platter and the adult slicing that first, fully covered in skin outside layer of the turkey breast. This is incorrect. You’ll notice we lay the whole breast down and cut diagonally across the breast which makes for tender, even slices instead of dried out shreds.


Using the chef’s knife, slice through the joint to remove a wing, and transfer to the platter. Repeat on the other side.

Arrange on a platter. 

A photo of a carved turkey arranged on a white serving platter.

Ready to Eat Turkey

It’s really so simple! Do you think you can handle it? Hopefully the descriptions and pictures here have helped make the carving process less intimidating.

All your white meat and dark meat lovers are going to be satisfied with your spread. The meat is also going to be the most flavorful and moist meat you’ve ever had!

A close up photo of a carved roasted turkey arranged on a white platter.

We love to add a few of the roasted lemon halves from the turkey as well as some fresh herbs and greens to the spread to make it pretty!

All of your questions for how to carve a turkey are answered here! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


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A roasted whole turkey that is ready to be carved.