How to carve a turkey: The quick and easy way to carve a turkey

Learn how to carve a turkey for Christmas with our step-by-step guide. We're here to help make it that little bit easier...

How to carve a turkey: Step 1

Carving a turkey at Thanksgiving or Christmas has never been easier. Learn how to carve a turkey the right way with our simple step-by-step guide.

Knowing how to carve a turkey is easy once you know how - even when the pressure is on and you're doing the honours at the Christmas or Thanksgiving table.

Once you have cooked your turkey to perfection (follow our guide on how to cook a turkey), you will want to carve it properly so that it looks the best it possibly can when it's served up - and so you can make the most out of every part of the bird too.

How long should a turkey sit before carving?

It's important to rest your cooked turkey before carving so that the juices can be re-absorbed into the fibres of the meat. Failing to rest your bird could result in a drier texture.

There's also no need to cover the turkey whilst resting. Our Deputy Food Editor, Rose Fooks, says "it's important not to cover your turkey whilst resting it as the skin will soften. You want nice crispy skin when you take it to the Christmas table."

There are many opinions on how long you should rest your turkey. Gordon Ramsay suggests resting your turkey for as long as you have cooked it. So, if you cooked the bird for 1hr 30mins you would rest it for that long before carving. However, food hygiene regulations recommend not leaving high protein foods out at room temperature for longer than 90 minutes.

For information on how long to cook a turkey, follow our ultimate turkey guide which shows you exactly how to calculate Christmas turkey cooking times by size and weight.

Here at GoodtoKnow, we recommend resting for around 45mins. This is enough time for the meat to reabsorb its juices, not too much time that it goes cold and it's also a safe amount of time.

What's the best knife to use to carve a turkey?

The best advice with regards to the use of cooking knives is that you should feel comfortable using it. That said, there are some factors that make it both safer and easier.

It's always important to use a sharp knife because it requires less pressure to cut. A dull or blunt knife slip more easily and cause an injury. You will also get a cleaner cut because you are not having to push down so hard on the meat.

A carving knife is the ideal size and shape for cutting your turkey. It's been designed specifically for carving and some, like the knife in the Henckels Carving Set (opens in new tab), also come with a carving fork. The carving fork is useful for holding the turkey still whilst you carve it.

If you already have a carving knife which is a bit dull then you can sharpen it using a sharpening steel (opens in new tab) (if it's only a little dull) or a manual knife sharpener (opens in new tab) if it requires a little more sharpening.

How to carve a turkey like a pro

Carving the Christmas turkey is a proud moment. After spending hours preparing and cooking it, you want to make sure you serve it with the attention it deserves.

Rob Morton from Morton's Family Farm, which has been farming turkeys for decades, gives us his top tips when it comes to carving a turkey.

Top tips for carving a turkey

  • You need to have a high quality, sharp knife.
  • The thinner the blade the better, as thinner blades perform better and cut better. It will keep the cooked meat together instead of shredding it while being sliced.
  • Let the bird rest per the cooking instructions before carving it.
  • If you’re carving a whole bird, you essentially want to end up with distinct pieces – before you go into creating smaller slices i.e. two breasts, two thighs, two legs, and two wings.
  • Once the smaller slices are put on the serving plate, cover it with aluminium foil to keep the turkey warm before serving.
  • Save the turkey bones to make gravy.
  • Once you have separated your pieces of turkey, we recommend slicing the breast, slice the thighs and legs as much as possible then pull any meat away that you can't get with the knife. It is unlikely you'll be able to slice the wings so you can either pull the meat off of these or nibble at them like a good old chicken wing.

How to carve a turkey: Step 1

How to carve a turkey: Step 1

Place the cooked turkey on the board and steady with a carving fork. With a sharp knife, cut the skin between the thigh and breast.

How to carve a turkey: Step 2

How to carve a turkey: Step 2

Bend the thigh outwards and cut straight through the hipjoint, removing the whole leg.

To separate the thigh meat from the drumstick, hold the drumstick by the knuckle end with a piece of kitchen paper.

Slice firmly downwards between the thigh and the leg, twisting the knife to cut through the joint.

Next carve thin slices from the thigh and place meat onto the warmed serving platter. Repeat with other thigh.

How to carve a turkey: Step 3

How to carve a turkey: Step 3

For the drumsticks, these can be placed on the serving platter to serve whole or the meat can be sliced as follows.

Hold the drumstick vertically at the knuckle end with a piece of kitchen paper. Carve the meat and skin from one side of the drumstick along the line of thebone.

Cut through the corner of the breast toward the wing.

Move the wing away from the breast to locate the wing joint and cut through.

Place on to the platter, this is one serving. Roll leg over and repeat carving again along the bone.

How to carve a turkey: Step 4

How to carve a turkey: Step 4

If stuffing has been used, slice a triangle shaped hole large enough in the neck cavity to remove all the stuffing.

Then thinly slice and place on the platter to be served with the meat.

If there is any stuffing left in the turkey, simply scoop it out with a spoon and place in a bowl to serve separately.

If stuffing has been used, slice a triangle shaped holelarge enough in the neck cavity to remove all the stuffing.

Then thinly slice and place on the platter to be served with the meat.

If there is any stuffing left in the turkey, simply scoop it out with a spoon and place in a bowl to serve separately.




How to carve a turkey: Step 5

How to carve a turkey: Step 5

Place each slice on to the platter as it is carved. And there you have it! A perfectly sliced turkey.

Samuel Goldsmith
Samuel Goldsmith

Former Assistant Headteacher, Samuel has a BSc in Food from the University of Birmingham and is also Co-Vice Chair of the Guild of Food Writers and a Trustee of 91 Ways CIC. His work has featured in national and international publications including Waitrose Food, Australian Delicious, and the LAD Bible Group. Samuel has also consulted on a number of best-selling food and drink books, and was a nutritional consultant for BBC’s Eat Well for Less.