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Who's carving your turkey? Whats your method?

Nice article in todays Times food section (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/21/din...) about carving the bird. I was surprised and pleased to see that we already use the method they describe (no, we're not butchers!). We always carve in the kitchen and then arrange everything back into a turkey shape on a beautiful platter. We carve off all the parts whole and then cut them into serving sizes - the breast, especially, is unbeatable this way. The job goes to my husband, who relishes it (great knife skills!). We have a beautiful carving set that belonged to my great grandparents, but it usually gets abandonded for a nice, sharp contemporary slicing knife out of our block.
What do you do? Whose job is it at your house?

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  1. IMO nothing beats a well-laden table with a gaping hole waiting for a whole turkey to complete the Rockwellian picture. And I would feel silly bringing the turkey out to fill that hole while we say grace only to bring back into the kitchen to carve. As our table overflows with food and guests, we eat buffet style and I stand towards the end carving turkey individually with a beautiful carving set that I invariably put aside after 15 minutes of mauling the turkey with a dull 20-year old blade.

    1. Saw that article and am giving it passing thought. I've done the carving ever since Dad died nearly 15 years ago and I've always done it the traditional way at the table. The job fell to me just because I, more than anyone else who will be there, knows the anatomy of the bird just from cutting up so many chickens. But that technique really appealed to me. I'm just trying to figure out, though, where I might be able to do it since I have a rather small apartment kitchen and I know every surface will be covered. I really like the idea that all the meat will be on the platter at once. I always end up carving about half the turkey, then passing the platter while I carve the rest. I'll just have to see if I can work out the logistics of it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        The one tip I always give people is that you have to let the turkey rest before you carve it. Many cooks rush the process (especially with a room full of hungry people) and then the turkey turns out dry. No matter how you carve it, please wait 15 minutes, at least, before you do.

        1. re: brendastarlet

          You're right. Fifteen minutes *at least*! Even with a fourteen pounder I usually give it 20 minutes and for a larger bird more like half an hour.

      2. Most important: remove the wishbone before roasting. The wishbone on a turkey is set at a deeper angle than in a chicken, but you can feel it easily through the flesh in the neck cavity. Use a very sharp shortish knife - run it along each side of each bone, then round and cut off the two ends at their easy-to-joint joints. You might have a tussle over the joining point, but fear not if a piece is left in - as carver after roasting, you can remedy that problem.

        I've always jointed and carved in the kitchen; I've never been attracted by the sight of the carved carcass on the table.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          Before roasting? Does this make the removal of the breast portions easier upon carving? I'm intrigued, if you have time before the Big Day.

          1. re: cayjohan

            Yes, BEFORE roasting. It allows you to live the breast halves out because you can run the carving knife right along the ridge bone and not hit the wishbond where the breast meat would otherwise get caught under.

        2. I posted earlier this week about my unorthodox method -- cook two turkeys! I cook the first a day or two before T-Day, let it cool and slice, albeit unconventionally since I cut across the grain of the meat. I pack it into foil packets (light & dark meat separated and moistened w/ pan juice) and refrigerate until needed to reheat.

          On Thanksgiving, we cook the second bird who has pride-of-place on the platter, surrounded by the already-carved, now-hot turkey. Dinner is served! Everyone has a hot meal and when more turkey is needed, the second bird is available.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sherri

            Left over turkey along side fresh cooked turkey? Blech. To me they don't even taste the same. Although I do salute your ingenuity!

          2. Two years ago, my father saw somebody use this method on the Today show (or a similar one) and he used it. I remember us all talking about what a difference it made, particularly with the white meat. We never knew that white meat could be so tasty.

            This year, my parents won't be here since they live in Florida (I live in NY), so it will be either my brother-in-law or father-in-law carving the turkey (in the kitchen). My husband has never done it, and I'm not about to let him start tomorrow on my first time hosting Thanksgiving.

            I will definitely let them know about the against the grain thing for the breast. I always do that for brisket, but for turkey, who knew?

            1. I, too, was pleasantly surprised to see that the method described in the NY Times was the method I've always used. As the child of Taiwanese immigrants who didn't grow up with the deep-seeded Thanksgiving tradition of the dining-table turkey carving show, I guess I've had more latitude. Last year at Christmas dinner with the in-laws, my sister-in-law, who roasted the turkey, asked if anyone would be willing to carve it. After no one else offered, I volunteered. A certain family member looked horrified as I carved it my usual way (separating the legs and thighs, removing the whole breasts and cutting everything against the grain in uniform slices, leaving a bare carcass behind)... but afterwards he put his arm around me and apologized for being a doubter. I think I'll have the "honors" from now on.

              1. My method is easy...go to somebody else's house and let them take care of it ;)
                Seriously, I do it when I'm home and actually make a turkey. I'm usually working T-day and get out of cooking.

                1. The Times article is informative and a good read.

                  I found a fun YouTube-- Home economist Martha Logan demonstrates how to carve...

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPIpX-...

                  1. In the past it was always Mrs. O who carved the turkey, because she's really good at it and enjoys doing it. Now that she's not eating them anymore, I'm not sure how we'd go about it, but then we aren't hosting a big family T-Day anymore either. So I guess it's moot.

                    I've spatchcocked the last two I cooked, which simplifies the carving process a bit. And one year I got one so big it wouldn't fit the so-called "roaster" I was using - one of those old-fashioned enamelled-steel things with the lid - so I deboned the breast completely and then put more stuffing under the breast skin. It lowered the height enough, and the breast meat cooked in a sort of stuffing sandwich, which meant it didn't get overcooked at all. It was also a cinch to carve.

                    1. Interesting old thread. I have always done it this way. I sort of reassemble the bird, with the breast (cut against the grain) at one end of the platter, sliced thighs at the other end, flanked by drumsticks and wings. Meanwhile, I snag the backbone (including oysters and the Pope's Nose) for myself!

                      1. For those who prefer to carve at the table, there's an unconventional and pretty good method in this thread from last year:

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8787...

                        1. Sadly: hackarama. Since it's just the 2 of us, we dish up our plates in the kitchen, then head to the candlelit dining room. I've read everything extant on carving, but I always seem to mangle something, usually 'cause my hand/knife handle gets all turkey greasy, so my grip is bad.

                          1. About two years ago I stopped cooking the huge 23 lb. turkey and dealing with the carving and worry about doneness. Mostly because it became very hard for me to lift the roasting pan, etc. And, then I remembered the ease of roasting the meat based on the NY Times recipe for making gravy ahead of time.

                            I then started to roast/braise turkey legs, thighs, and breast instead of a whole bird. I butter roast the parts to get the color and flavor, then put a lid on them (with added wine) to finish them off and keep the moisture in. This process takes a little over two hours, and is so dependable I never worry about timing. We get a lot of dark meat (most of us like that) and some white meat for sandwiches and the few that don't like the dark.) I don't have to worry about gravy, because I make about a quart of that a couple weeks ahead of time and freeze it. (NY Times recipe.)

                            I've never before had such a stress-free holiday until I started this routine. We never presented a whole bird at the table anyway, so this was a perfect solution.

                            1. This one says it all:

                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAe7-G...

                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=...

                              Always rid the wishbone first.

                              1. See this one too:

                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg8I7f...