I remember when I was a kid we had one of those electric carving knives that my dad ordered from an infomercial. It was a serrated knife blade attached to a handle with a motor that moved the blade back and forth in a kind of violent vibration. It gave Thanksgiving a sort of “Friday the 13th, Jason” feel, but you know…each family has their traditions. I think we used it only one or two years and it was added to the “useless gadget drawer” in the kitchen along with the Slap Chop and the Avocado Slicer. Truth is, you don’t need any fancy equipment to carve a turkey into beautiful slices. All you really need is a little space to spread out. I think the hardest part about carving the turkey is that many people try to follow the “Normal Rockwell” tradition of The Slicing of the Bird at the dinning room table. But if your Thanksgiving table is anything like ours, we have more plates and silverware than we could ever use at one meal. Salad fork, pickle fork, desert spoon, regular spoon, water goblet, wine glass, dinner plate, salad plate, miscellaneous bowl that’s more or less on the table because it matches my mom’s dish set rather than really having function at the meal. Then there’s the table cloth, which she swears she doesn’t care if things are spilled on, but you know that bottle of stain remover is close at hand. Instead, let your guests admire the golden bird in its “in tact” state in the kitchen. Then carve it and deliver the platter of easily manageable slices to the table for your guests to enjoy without having to maneuver around Aunt Mildred’s bowl of ambrosia.
You will need:
~space, elbow room, a place to spread out
~a cutting board
~a large sharp knife (not serated)
~large grill thongs
~platter for the carved meat
After cooking the turkey let it rest for about 15 minutes to seal in as many juices as possible. You can keep it covered but it should stay warm regardless. This is a perfect time to make your gravy. (For easy, perfect poultry gravy see my post Basic Poultry Gravy.)
I don’t recommend using a fork to steady the bird. Every time the meat is pierced those tender juices run out of the meat. Instead, use a set of grill thongs. You can use them like an extra set of hands without tearing the skin and they’re really handy to lift the turkey from the roasting pan.
Starting at the legs slice down the skin that connects the leg to the ribs. (Watch your fingers, the bird will still be piping hot inside.)
I find this easiest if the neck is facing me.
Keep close to the ribs so that the thigh and leg come off in one piece.
You will hit the thigh joint which is easily popped now that the bird is cooked.
Pop the joint and continue slicing off the thigh meat.
Repeat on the other side.
The leg and the thigh make a sort of “V” shape. Slice through the point of the “V” to separate the thigh from the leg.
You will hit another joint. Pop this joint and continue slicing the leg from the thigh.
Repeat for the other side.
To remove the breast meat, start in the center of the breast bone and start slicing downward against the bone and down the side you are carving.
If you keep your knife against the ribs you should get most of the breast meat off in one beautiful slice.
Set each breast aside and slice into individual slices.
Now for the wings. I usually just pick the wings meat off and add it to the leftover bowl. But if you want to serve them at the table, it’s completely do-able. Now that the breast meat is removed, it is easy to find the joint that connects the wing to the bird.
Slice down, pop the joint and continue slicing off.
Arrange the meat on a platter and each guest will easily be able to select the cut they like best.
Don’t forget to pick the bird clean for leftovers. There’s lots of meat on the back and bits here and there that can be eaten or used for stock.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Community Chickens!!!