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Thanksgiving Turkey Carving Tips

Published November 19, 2010        by Rae Ann

Flickr Photo Credit:  roboppyThe turkey has been roasted to perfection; side dishes are hot under serving dish covers; drinks are poured, and your family has gathered around the Thanksgiving table.  Only one thing remains to do before everyone digs in – carving the turkey.  Asking to carve is an honor, but it can also be a big responsibility.  Proper carving keeps the turkey's great texture and flavor intact and provides guests with beautiful slices of juicy dark or tender white meant.  Don't stress about carving; just be prepared with these easy tips.

The first step in carving the turkey may be the hardest.  When it comes out of the oven, restrain yourself from tearing into the wonderfully aromatic bird, and let it cool for about 30 minutes.  According to chefs, this allows the juices of the turkey to settle and redistribute throughout the bird.  It will also give it a chance to cool enough to allow for even slicing.  To allow the turkey to cool, remove the stuffing.  Slide a long wooden spoon or carving fork into the empty cavity and then lift it gently up and onto a platter.  Cover it loosely with foil.

While your turkey is cooling, you can work on making your gravy.  Follow the easy steps below to make great, savory gravy:

  • ·After you've removed the turkey from the pan, pour the liquid into a big glass measuring cup.
  • ·Add water or wine if you need more liquid: you typically need ¼ to a ½ cup per person.
  • ·Add one tablespoon for each cup of liquid.
  • ·Turn your stove on medium-low and pour your liquid mixture into the roasting pan.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to get the meat bits and flavor and whisk it up for a few minutes.
  • ·Bring the gravy to a boil.  Let it simmer; a good rule is to allow one minute per every cup of liquid, but you should be able to see it thickening.
  • ·Season it with pepper and/or salt.

Now that you've used your cooling time productively to make gravy, you can start thinking about carving the turkey.  You can do it in the kitchen and put the meat on a serving platter, or you can carve at the table.  The advantage of doing it in the kitchen is that you don't have ten pairs of eyes watching you!  But you can also cut all of the meat off the breast and then cut it into smaller pieces on the tray.  This makes the pieces a bit smaller, and they tend to stay together better.

The tool you use for carving is a very important decision: choose a thin knife that has a very sharp edge.  While the turkey is cooling, you can hone the edge with a sharpener.  You will also need a carving fork to keep the turkey steady as you carve.  After it has cooled, slice the meat between the breast and the leg.  It is generally recommended that you take off the legs first by pressing the thigh outward with your knife.  After finding the hip joint, remove the leg by cutting through the joint.  The leg has a thigh bone and drumstick bone, and you can separate these by cutting between these bones.

You can give the drumstick to a guest to gnaw on – kids often love the drumsticks – or you can carve it off by steadying it with the fork and cutting a thick slice from one side.  Do this for each side, cutting along the bone for four great dark slices of meat.   The thigh meat is carved on a cutting board.  Cut into the meat, parallel to the bone, and slice the meat off.

Now we move on to the turkey breast.  Hold your carving fork against the turkey breastbone.  Slice diagonally through the meat and lift the meat with the fork onto a serving plate.  Do this until all the meat on that side has been carved.  Repeat on the other side.  By this time, your guests are drooling, so let them eat!