The Thanksgiving turkey has come out of the oven, roasted to perfection. Now comes the tricky part — carving the bird tableside as your dinner guests scrutinize every cut. If that doesn’t give you nightmares, it’s probably because you’ve already started loading up on tryptophan.
Most hosts dread the traditional ceremony of carving the turkey in front of eagerly awaiting family and friends. However, if you break down the process, it isn’t as complicated as it may seem.
Chef Paul Sartory, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America in New Hyde Park, New York, has created the following step-by-step guide to help you carve the turkey right every time.
The first thing to do is to start with a sharp knife. This makes carving easier and safer. A sharp knife will glide through the meat, and cuts through joints with much less pressure. Take the knife to a knife sharpener before the holiday so that they can put a good edge on the blade.
When the turkey has been removed from the oven, allow it to rest on the cutting board for approximately 20 minutes before carving it. This will keep the majority of the natural juices within the bird, leaving it moist and delicious. Then give yourself plenty of elbow room to carve your turkey.
Once you have placed yourself in comfortable position to carve:
1. Remove the drumstick and thigh in one piece, cutting between the breast and thigh all the way down to the hip joint.
2. Pull the whole leg/thigh section away. Grab it with your hand and pull apart until it pops the hip joint out of the socket. You may also have to slightly cut the meat surrounding the joint for easier removal of the leg.
3. Separate the drumstick and the thigh where they meet.
4. Slice the meat off the drumstick and thigh.
5. Repeat steps 1–4 for the other drumstick-thigh section.
6. Leave wings on for stability in carving the white meat, to prevent the turkey from rocking back and forth.
7. Start carving down the center of the top of the breast by the keel bone. Slice down on both sides of the bone and loosen the meat from the ribs. Beginning at the top, slice perpendicular to the bird through to the keel bone. Pull each slice up off the rib cage and arrange the slices in a row. When you have finished one side, slide your knife under the row of meat and transfer the row to a platter. Turn the turkey and repeat with the second side.
8. After you remove the wings, your professionally carved bird is ready to be served.
You may want to try practicing your carving technique on a chicken prior to Thanksgiving. Just like for any performance, a dress rehearsal can give you a chance to find the flaws and correct them before the big day arrives. No matter what happens when you carve, keep in mind that it won’t ruin the holiday. It will just be a funny memory you can all laugh about next year when you get together around the Thanksgiing table.