Carving a turkey is pretty standard, but how you “rest” the turkey before carving can make all the difference in whether your turkey is dry or whether it is moist and perfect. No matter how you cook your turkey — roasted, fried smoked or grilled — sometimes a chef’s timing can seem to ruin it. But wait! Here are a few tips and tricks to make even a dry turkey taste delicious and be the crowd pleaser your guests are expecting.
Rule number 1 for all cooked turkeys is to be sure to let the turkey rest for 40 minutes after coming out of the oven. Cover it loosely with a tent of tin foil and let it sit on the counter in a shallow dish or pan. This will give time for the turkey to stop cooking and retain its juices and to firm up the breast meat. No matter how you cooked the bird, be sure to let it rest for at least 40 minutes before attempting to carve it.
Now if your family activities distracted you from pulling out the turkey on time and you let it cook for longer than required, or if you suspect by the way your turkey looks on the outside that it might be dry, consider letting the bird rest upside down with the breast at the bottom of the resting pan. This will allow the juices to seep back into the breast prior to carving and make for a better, more moist and picturesque white meat carving.
Rule number 2 is quite simple but extremely necessary — sharpen your carving knifes to a razor hone before attempting to carve the bird. Attempting to carve a turkey with a dull knife will make a mess in the kitchen as well as a mess of what should be a beautiful clean and crisp cut of the meat itself. Z’Scoop recommends using a carving knife of at least 8 inches long, preferably one with a 10-inch blade, razor sharpened the entire length of the blade.
When the resting period is over and you are ready to carve the turkey, turn the bird upright — with the backside down and breast-side up and untie the two drumsticks. Then using the point of your carving knife, separate the drumsticks from the thighs at the joint and place them on the serving platter. You can arrange them to your liking later.
I like to arrange the serving platter with the dark meat from the drumsticks and thighs on one side of the platter and the white meat from the breast and wings on the other side to make it easier for my guests to serve themselves their favorite kind.
With the cavity of the bird opened by removing the drumsticks, it is now easy to take out the stuffing, if you made stuffing as opposed to dressing.
Now carve away the thighs or second-joints, as they say down south, and then remove the wings, separating them at the joints. Some people like to carve the thighs of the turkey and to do this, cut each side of the thigh along the direction of the bone. Then cut smaller medallions crosswise into larger bite-sized pieces. At my house, we do not attempt to carve the wings as they provide both entertainment and interaction with the smaller children that like to eat with their fingers.
Many people like to leave the skin on the drumsticks and the wings for the wonderfully savory spices used in seasoning — at my house this is the chef’s choice.
Up to this point, these first steps can be used when carving the bird at the table or in the kitchen. But now — in carving the breast — it does matter how you carve depending on the location.
In the kitchen, each side of the breast should be carved downward and then outward from the bird. This is easy to do in the kitchen because you can use your hand to separate the carved breast as you are cutting it, removing the entire breast from the bird at one time. Once removed, it can then be sliced into beautiful medallions of approximately the same size allowing for a beautiful presentation on the serving platter.
In addressing the bird after the drumsticks, wings and thighs are removed to the platter, using your carving knife, first cut horizontally across the bird from the top of the thigh and wing areas into the breast area of the bird. Then, beautiful vertical slices can be made to each side of the breastbone revealing the rich and moist meat of the breast slices.
These slices can be placed on the platter with the wings, thighs and drumsticks, or served ceremoniously onto each plate to the “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” of the guests over each carving.
After every plate is served, and the serving platter arranged, it is then appropriate to remove the remaining turkey carcass from the table and allow better “elbow-room” for all of the guests to enjoy the feast.
If you still have questions or are uncertain how to execute these written instructions, we have included a few videos from experts showing each step of the way that will help you become a master at presenting the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving turkey meal.
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