How To: Carve a Turkey

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By Jamie Deen

I really don’t remember the year I got passed the holiday turkey carving baton at Mama’s house…I just remember the mess. Now, it’s a seamless operation for me. I could probably even compete with the best of them on turkey carving speed. But in the beginning, that wasn’t the case. Looking back, I wish I had a How To Article to read with photographs for reference like this one. But when I think about it, I guess I had something even better…my mama. Her, standing over my shoulder telling me every cut to make and a brother with his mouth open waiting, not so patiently, nearby made for a quick study. Happy Thanksgiving Y’all.


Step 1: Cut the band of skin holding drumstick. Grasp the end of the drumstick. Then place a knife between the drumstick/thigh and body of the turkey, and cut through skin to joint. Remove entire leg by pulling out and back, using the point of the knife to disjoin it. Separate the thigh and drumstick at the joint.


Step 2: Make a long horizontal cut above wing joint all the way through to the body frame. If you desire, the wing may be disjointed from the body at this point.


Step 3: Slice straight down with an even stroke, at the top of the breast bone all the way through to the horizontal cut you made in the step prior.


Step 4: Remove the breast to a cutting board and slice starting at the smallest end to the largest.

Step 5: Repeat previous 4 steps on the opposite side of the bird.

Jamie’s Additional Carving Tips:
I always use mom’s Paula Deen Signature Cutlery Set when I carve my birds. Use a straight edge sharp knife for easier carving.

Be sure to allow your bird to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Cut dark meat before light meat, as it will stay moist longer.

The key in removing thighs, legs, and wings from the turkey body is to run your knife along the body until you find the places where bones meet. By cutting between joints, and not through bones, you can disconnect bones without much fuss.

Don’t throw away the left over turkey parts or meaty bones. Save them for stock. If you don’t have time to make stock right away, put the parts and meaty bones in a zip top bag and place in the freezer for future use.

Terrific Turkey Recipes:
Orange Apricot Turkey
Roasted Turkey with Maple Cranberry Glaze
Roasted Turkey
Deep Fried Turkey

Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.

Read More From Thanksgiving.

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Reader Comments:


I do not carve a turkey the way you do...what happened to "the right way" with slicing the breast into nice slices down the breast???? an electric knife is the nicest way since most people do not have a sharp knife and tear the bird to big old chunks...that is what happened to my gorgeous turkey that I slaved over for 6 hours and i could have cried to see my perfectly cooked turkey in chunks. the slicing method presents more class and shows much nicer on a beautiful platter.

By Kathy Stevenson on December 01, 2013


Love your recipes Paula, miss watching you on television. Hope to see you again on TV, but in the meantime you are on my facebook and you have given my cooking a whole new adventure. Thanks for all the new recipes. Your fan, Cheryl Pettigrew

By Cheryl Pettigrew on November 29, 2013


Excellent demonstration! I have always removed the legs and thighs the way you suggest. I love the way you remove the entire breast half and cut across the grain, much easier than slicing one piece at a time!!

By Emmett E Purvis on November 27, 2013


You described it just right... Keeps the moisture in the white meet... But you forgot to finger strip the dark meet from the thigh and drumsticks... Then save the carcass for turkey soup next day. Been doin it that way for 40+ years

By Papa Tom Grizzard on November 26, 2013


Love love love all your recipes. Thank you so much for continuing to care about us and giving us sweet and flavorful foods to cook. We care about you and are so happy that you continue to think about us and send us all of your goodies to eat wishing you the best holidays ever through Thanksgiving and Christmas and for the whole next year

By Doris Thomas on November 26, 2013


I always carve the turkey and I carve the meat off the breast while it is still attached to the body. This year I am going to cut the breast off and then turn it 90 degrees and cut it into slices. Hope some of my guests notice a difference from the old way I used to carve it. Thank you for the helpful hints. Jim

By Jim Benson on November 26, 2013


Paula your the BEST

By Tamml Johnson on November 26, 2013



By PAT DOSSEY on November 23, 2013

54321 are always the best! I miss you here. Can you tell me if you have a new tv show? I will watch it totally! Miss ya honey!

By Jim on November 22, 2013


Last year we changed the way we carve our turkey to the way y'all suggested. Have to say the breast meat has never been more tender!!! Not to mention it was much easier doing it this way. Thanks

By carol on November 08, 2013


Love your show. Just saw the Thanksgiving special where your boys cooked the dinner. It was great!!!

By jim Blalock on November 11, 2012


dear paula i need some help cook my dressing for thankgiving it come out to dry do you cook your dressing in the turey or in a bag thank you i order your pot and pan set i love the set and the color please let me no before thankgiving i watch your tv show every day thank you and god bless you and your family your friend always shawn in las vegas nv.

By shawn baker on November 02, 2012


This is what I do to the turkey and it comes out perfectly

By Laura22 on March 10, 2012


I was wondering if you could me me the recipe of the rub that Paula put on her turkey with the butter and parlsey, she showed that on TV the other day. Thanks Pat Rice

By Patty Rice on November 17, 2011


paula you are the best!

By claudia diaz on November 02, 2011


i love to cook paula, but yow are the best i ever see.

By on November 02, 2011

I was lucky enough to meet Jamie this year at “Lady And Sons”, in Savannah.  I bought the double cookbook and have used it many times. Yum, Yum. 

This carving lesson will be added to my cooking files. After over 45 years cooking, I know a simple way to carve the “Bird”.  Thank you!
Happy Holidays to Y’all.

By carole stafiej on November 25, 2010

I thought this was the perfect guide to carving a turkey. I’ve done it quite a few times myself, always just guessing and sometimes it turns out okay and others…it’s kind-of messy !  But now I see step-by-step and next time should be a breeze. Thanks for putting this out here for people to make their holiday dinners go more smoothly. I love watchin’ the Deens on Food Network and have been a big fan for years. I love your buffet in Tunica, too !!  Much love…from my computer to yours.  smile

By Jamie Barnhill on November 12, 2010

Hello to whoever is reading this, hopefully Paula! lol. Anyways, thankyou so much for posting a how-to on carving a turkey. I must say that having cooked only six Thanksgiving dinners, I am 26, I never knew the “Proper” way to carve one and thought it was well over do that i learn. Paula Deen and to your extending family your love from the kitchen has given me such joy of cooking myself, I hope you have a Wonderful and safe ThanksGiving, Blessings to you you all.

By Amber Morris on November 10, 2010

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm