How to cook and carve a turkey like a pro

Cook your Christmas turkey to perfection, then serve it up right. We’ve got all the knowhow you need

Carving a turkey
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A Christmas turkey should be both tender and juicy, and carving it should make the very most of what you’ve cooked. So, for many of us, that’s a fair bit of pressure on the 25th December when the most epic meal of the year: Christmas dinner, is about to be served. Use our recipe and carving instructions, though, and we promise it’ll dial down your big occasion stress and you can enjoy the event even if you’re in charge.

For more recipes (including for roasties and veg), see our dedicated hub. 

Serves: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes, plus one hour to come up to room temperature

Cooking time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2.5kg turkey

50g butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Take turkey out of the fridge and leave out, covered and in a cool place, for one hour to bring it up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/GM4.

1. To make carving easier, take out the wishbone before cooking. Remove the skin from the neck of the turkey and feel inside the cavity for the wishbone (V shaped). Cut around it with a small knife, then pull firmly to remove.

2. Smear the turkey with butter and season with salt and pepper.

3. Place the turkey in a roasting tin, breast side up. Put in the oven for around 2 hours 15 minutes, or according to retailer’s instructions. To test that the turkey is cooked, insert a roasting fork or skewer into the thickest part of the thigh. If the juices run clear, it’s cooked.

4. Remove from the oven and rest in a warm area, loosely covered with foil, for 30 minutes to 1 hour before carving.

To carve:

1. Cut between the wing and the turkey and remove the wing. Repeat on the other side.

2. Cut the skin between breast and leg with a sharp knife.

3. Bend the leg outwards using a carving fork, and cut through the joint to remove. Repeat on the other side.

4. For the breast, use a sharp knife or carving knife and start from the bottom where the wing was located, cutting slices across the grain and moving upwards until you reach the top of the breast bone.

5. For the legs, place on a chopping board one at a time and cut through the joint with a sharp knife, separating the thigh and drumstick. Slice the meat from the thigh, working around the bone. Carve the drumsticks towards the knuckle end.

How to carve a turkey like Jamie Oliver

Want to carve your turkey like a pro? Watch the video above to watch Jamie Oliver carve turkey two ways – the traditional way we've outlined above, starting from the wing, and another way which involves cutting off the whole breast by going in alongside the backbone and then slicing the breast separately. It's very easy to get even slices this way. 

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Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.