This article describes a method for extracting aerofoil characteristics from 3D computational fluid dynamics (CFD) rotor computations. Based on the knowledge of the detailed flow in the rotor plane, the average sectional axial induction is determined for each wind speed. Based on this, the local angle of attack is determined when knowing the rotational speed and the local blade twist angle. The local aerofoil characteristics, i.e. Cl and Cd, are then computed from the forces acting on the blade. The extracted Cl and Cd are used in a standard blade element momentum (BEM) code, where no corrections are made for the rotational augmentation of forces or for the tip effect, since these are directly included in the aerofoil characteristics. Three stall-regulated wind turbine rotors are used as test cases. The computed mechanical power is overpredicted at high wind speeds using steady Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes computations, but using advanced turbulence models, e.g. detached eddy simulation, or a transition prediction model improves the computations. The agreement between the mechanical power (or low-speed shaft torque) predicted by CFD and BEM is good, even though a small but consistent difference in induction prediction is present. With the proposed method and a sufficiently accurate CFD computation it is possible to obtain aerofoil characteristics from a given wind turbine design without using empirical stall corrections models. Alternatively, new correction models can be derived using the extracted aerofoil characteristics. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.