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How to Carve a Thanksgiving Turkey

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Despite what you may see in a Norman Rockwell painting, carving a turkey whole at the table, while dramatic, will not yield the best results. The most efficient way to carve a turkey is to cut it into parts first. Then, with the breast off the bird, you can slice it across the grain for the most tender bite.

Before you start carving, be sure the cooked turkey has rested for at least 20 minutes (longer for a very large bird) so that its juices have a chance to redistribute (otherwise the bird will be dry). Make sure you have a sharp knife and a large, sturdy cutting board, ideally one with a trough to collect juices. (Otherwise, you may want to put the cutting board on a rimmed baking sheet or have lots of paper towels handy.)


The Legs

Start by cutting through the skin that connects the leg to the body (1). Pull the leg away from the body, then slice through the joint to separate the whole leg from the body. Once the leg is removed, locate the joint between the drumstick and the thigh and slice through that to separate the two pieces. If you like, remove the meat from the thigh bone (keep the skin intact) and slice the thigh crosswise into pieces.

The Wings

Use your knife to find where the wing is connected to the body (2), and slice there to separate the wings from the body. Remove and discard the wing tips, if necessary, then cut the wings into flats and drumettes at the joint, if you like.

The Breast

To make carving the breast easier, it helps to remove the wishbone. At the neck end opening, cut along the perimeter of the V-shaped wishbone (3) to expose it. Get a hold of the wishbone, with your finger, then pull firmly on it to release it from the breast. (Set it aside and let it dry to snap it later and make a wish.) Next, run your knife along one side of the breast bone, then make slices down against the rib cage until the breast half (4) comes free. Finally, slice the breast crosswise against the grain. Transfer all your beautifully cut pieces to a platter and serve!

Best Smoked Turkey

by Traeger Kitchen

Prep Time

20 Min

Cook Time

6 Hr




Turkey Blend

Enjoy the best smoked turkey this holiday season. This bird is brined in our signature citrus brine kit, rubbed down with Turkey rub, and smoked over none other than our Turkey Blend hardwood for flavor inside and out. Learn how to smoke a turkey for your feast.

1 Whole(18-20 lb) turkey, thawed if frozen, giblets removed
1 Traeger Orange Brine and Turkey Rub Kit
1/2 CupTraeger Pork & Poultry Rub, divided
1/2 PoundUnsalted butter, softened
  • 1

    The day before smoking, brine the turkey according to the Traeger Turkey Brine Kit package instructions. Remove from the brine, rinse, and pat dry.

  • 2

    Season the inside cavity with 2 tablespoons of Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub.

  • 3

    Use your hands to carefully separate the turkey skin from the meat over the breasts, creating a pocket. Spread the softened butter under the skin and over the breasts in an even layer about 1/4 inch thick. Season the outside of the turkey with the remaining Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub to create the best smoked turkey.

  • 4

    Transfer the turkey to the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.

  • 5

    Remove the turkey from the refrigerator. Truss the legs and tuck the wing tips underneath the bird. Place the turkey in a roasting pan.

  • 6

    When ready to cook, set the Traeger temperature to 225℉ and preheat with the lid closed for 15 minutes. For optimal flavor, use Super Smoke, if available.

  • 7

    Insert the probe into the thickest part of the turkey breast. Place the roasting pan on the grill grates. Close the lid and cook until the internal temperature reaches 100-110℉.

  • 8

    Increase the grill temperature to 350℉ and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 160℉, about 4 hours more. The time will vary depending on the size of your turkey, your grill, and the weather.

  • 9

    Remove the bird from the grill and let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. (The internal temperature will continue to rise to reach a finished temperature of 165°F.) Enjoy!

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