The changing of the leaves is a sure sign we’re enjoying fall in Minnesota and our focus has shifted from shutting down the summer cabin to dreaming of comfort-foods like hot apple cider and chili with all the fixings. Cookbooks and websites provide ample inspiration for one other seasonal fave—turkey. Let us offer a quick primer on carving the bird for special occasions like Thanksgiving and other holiday meals.

The dream of a perfectly dressed platter of beautifully carved turkey is achievable when the process is demystified, step by step

We consulted with a local chef who is well known in the Twin Cities culinary community—Royal Dahlstrom. His experience spans a distinguished career in the kitchens of leading Twin Cities’ restaurants. He has also established a reputation as an effective teacher and successful entrepreneur. To see Chef Royal in action, check out this video demonstrating how to carve an entire turkey in less than 6 minutes.

Need the process in writing?
Here is our step-by-step guide on how to carve a turkey:

Chef Royal Dahlstrom

Tools you'll need:

  • A sharp carving knife
    Chef Royal recommends truing the blade (making it straight and sharp) with a steel hone every 1-2 uses. He recommends placing the steel upside down and running the knife along the rod 3-6 times at a 12-degree angle
  • A carving fork (optional)
  • Cutting board
    Use a board with a drip groove to catches juice that emerge during handling.
  • Serving Platter

turkey cutting board


  1. Let the Turkey Rest: After roasting, let the turkey rest for at least 15-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a moister bird.
  2. Gather Your Tools: Make sure you have all the tools mentioned above.
    • A chef’s knife is a traditional carving knife. Have a boning knife nearby so when you’re cutting the turkey you can work around and through the bones with ease.


  1. Remove the Legs and Thighs:
    • Use the carving knife to cut through the skin between the leg and the body.
    • Pull the leg away from the body to expose the joint.
    • Cut through the joint to remove the leg and thigh in one piece.
  2. Separate the Leg and Thigh:
    • Place the leg and thigh on the cutting board, skin side down.
    • Feel for the joint and cut through it to separate the leg and thigh.
  3. Remove the Wings:
    • Pull the wing away from the body to expose the joint.
    • Cut through the joint to remove the wing.
  4. Carve the Breast:
    • Make a horizontal cut just above the wing, parallel to the cutting board, all the way to the breastbone.
    • Make a second parallel cut about ½ inch above the first.
    • Hold the knife at a slight angle and slice downward, using the initial cuts as a guide. This will create even slices of breast meat.
    • Use the knife to pick up the breast lobes and move to the serving platter.
  5. Serve and Enjoy:
    • Arrange the carved pieces on a platter. You can carve the thighs or offer them whole and finish the platter with a garnish if desired.
    • Serve promptly.

Remember, turkey carving is a skill that can be learned and mastered so don't be discouraged if your first attempt isn't perfect. With a little practice, the only perplexing question left will be who gets to pull the wish bone!

turkey carving