How to Carve a Thanksgiving Turkey Like a Pro

Show that bird who’s boss.

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It’s that time. The big Thanksgiving turkey-carving moment. You’re poised at the head of the table, carving knife and fork in hand, the expectant eyes of your family on you, waiting for that first delicious slice of turkey. And you stab the thing like a savage and begin hacking away like a drunken lumberjack.

As the kids hide their eyes in horror and grandma faints with shock face-first into the mashed potatoes, you think, “I really should’ve watched that Youtube video about how to a carve a turkey.” Fear not, there’s a pretty good one right here:

Joking aside, Thanksgiving can be a time of real tension in the home, right up to the moment the family sits down to eat. That’s when a basic duty—carving the bird—can turn into a real trial for everyone. 

Thankfully, the internet wants to help. There are two excellent videos above, and written instructions below.

Turkey Promo [Getty/Tom Kelly Archive]
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Get your tools together before you begin. You’ll need a carving board, chef’s knife, paper towels, cutting board, a boning knife, and a large plate or platter. Now follow these steps for sliced poultry perfection:

  1. Snip the string: Slap the bird on the board, then with the tip of your knife, cut the strings binding the bird’s legs. 
  2. Legs and thighs: Use these instructions for both legs. Gently tug the drumstick and slice the skin connecting it to the breast. No hesitation here now, cut down to the joint. With a paper towel pull the leg down to the board and where the leg and thigh separate from the breast, slice the rest of the way through the joint.
  3. Drumsticks: More cutting! Slice the joint connecting drumstick and thigh and place the drumstick on your platter or plate. Thigh meat goes to the side—you’ll get to that after finishing with the other leg.
  4. Wishbone: The pesky y-shaped little bone is in the breast near the head of the bird—well, where the bird once had a head—and if you like you can extract it to ease carving the breasts. Don’t worry if you forget, it’s not mandatory.
  5. Breast: Place the boning knife parallel to the breastbone and slice down. With your free hand pull the meat from the bone until the breast is separated, then place it by the thighs.
  6. De-winging: Simple step here. Slice through the wing joints with the carving knife and park them by the the breast and thighs. Or throw them out. Wings seem kind of pointless with all that other juicy meat ready to go.
  7. The slicing begins: This is cutting board work. Tongs in hand, hold the thighs down and use the edge of your knife to cut the meat. 
  8. Breasts, part 2: With the tongs, hold the breast still and orient the meat so you can cut across the shortest part. Then, while making sure the skin stays attached, slice away, all the while piling that platter high.

There are variations in every set of turkey-carving instructions but they all end with the same results: deliciousness. And grandma won’t face plant into the mashed potatoes, either.