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How to Carve Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Tips and tricks for carving your Thanksgiving turkey so you don't disappoint a hungry table of guests.

4 min read

This story starts with a turkey. It is cooked well and will be delicious. Now you have to serve it. I am not going to tell you that carving the turkey is easy. It’s not. A turkey is not merely big, it’s also important. The last time anyone faced this it was over a year ago, or never. But there is a way to carve a turkey, and if you do it, you can become comfortable and probably even good at it. That’s what makes it worthwhile.

Having a smaller Thanksgiving this year? We have cooking tips and adjustments for your table.

There are a few things to keep in mind that will help make it go smoothly.


A dining table is a difficult place to carve a turkey. A kitchen counter, on the other hand, is a workspace. So, show your masterpiece to the table and then retreat back to the kitchen and get to work there. Use a large cutting board that’s secured to the counter with a damp towel to stop it from skidding. Have a platter ready, strewn with herbs.

The Knife

A sharp chef’s knife and a pair of tongs are my favorite tools for holding and slicing. Tongs are like little metal hand extensions, for me, easier to manage than a fork. A chef’s knife is what most people are probably comfortable using. Do make sure it is actually sharp. Carving, especially meat, with a dull knife is dangerous. See what other Thanksgiving tools you might need for the day.


Take them off first. Slice through the skin near the thigh, flow the leg away from the body and find the hip joint near the back. Press the leg down until it pops, and gently pry the thigh off by gently twisting the knife in the joint. Separate the drumstick and thigh. This is done by slicing through the springy cartilage at the knee. If this becomes difficult you are hitting bone; move the knife around until you find where you don’t have to force it. Carve the dark thigh meat from the bone if you like.


Remove the breasts in big, whole pieces by slicing down along the midline to the ribs and then across the ribs from hip to wing. This should be achieved without force. You may need to use your hands to ease the meat off the bone, and slice it crosswise into thick medallions with a bit of skin on each.


The shoulder where the wing connects is pretty close to the spine. Find the wing joint (as you did with the hip) and gently separate the wings. Open the wing joint away from the body.


Arrange the pieces on a platter. Serve. Enjoy.

Looking for a quick gravy to go along with the turkey? We use this recipe for making gravy with a fat separator.



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