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How to Carve a Turkey or a Chicken

posted in Meat, Poultry and Seafood by Kathy Maister

How to carve a turkey or a chicken or any fowl for that matter is not that complicated. You will need two things; a big sharp knife and a positive attitude that you are in fact up to the task! Be sure to let the bird rest at least 20-30 minutes before you start carving!

We’ll use a roasted chicken for our example today.

If you believe the commercials on TV, you should be able to carve the chicken right at the table and serve it up. Not a good idea! If this is your first go at cutting up a chicken, do it on the kitchen counter, just in case the chicken slips off the plate. You will be avoiding a potential disaster at the table, and you will have much greater confidence standing up while carving the chicken, rather than sitting down.

When carving the chicken leave it on a plate unless you have a carving board which has grooves in it to catch all the juices. Or place the bird on a cutting board and put the cutting board on a cookie sheet with sides to catch the juices.

Remove the pop-up thermometer, (if there is one) and throw it away. They are not reusable.

The first cut is around the top of the leg.

Then turn the chicken and circle around the bottom of the leg.

Now press the leg in the opposite direction of its natural position to pop the leg out of the joint. You may have to get the tip of your knife into the joint to nudge it out.

The leg should now be off the chicken.

Do the same thing to the other leg.

The wing will slice off with one swift cut with the knife.

To carve the breast you could do those nice thin long slices that you see them do on the magazine covers but that actually takes a bit of practice to get right. A much easier way is to slice through the top of the chicken separating the two breasts.

Slide your knife against one side of the bone separating the breast from the chicken.

Make another cut on the bottom of the breast and the whole breast should come off. Do the same thing with the other breast.

Place the breast on a cutting board skin side up. (There will be some bits of chicken left on the carcass. Pick all the chicken off with your (clean) fingers and either add it to the serving platter or save it for tomorrow and make chicken salad!)

Slice the breasts into nice big chunks.

Serve the chicken on a big platter garnished with parsley.


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Shaula Evans said:

Kathy, does this work for larger fowl, like ducks or turkey, or do you need to do anything different to carve them?

Kathy Maister said:

This will work on all fowl. Just make sure that after the bird comes out of the oven you should always let it “rest” at least 20 minutes before carving.

will said:

how convenient that letting it rest gives me time to make gravy.

mom, (it all goes back to mom), used to put the whole chicken cooking pan on the stove (without the chicken of course)

…and then she would add water turn on the stove and bring the drippings to a boil (basically everything that was left in the bottom of the pan)

sometimes she’d add a bit of cream and some pepper. maybe a dash of cognac, or some red wine,

..even oconut milk and a bit of thai curry paste and fresh basil

endless varieties of gravy she would make but always with the drippings mix with a bit of water brought to a boil on the stove as the starting point

Jon Sacker said:

Oooh, gravy, lovely. If you’re cooking a duck then try using some masalla wine, works a treat.

Louis said:

@will, my dad makes gravy the same way, by putting the roasting pan right on the stove.

@shaula, these birds are all built pretty much the same way so the carving technique is the same.

It might take some practice, but carving at the table in front of your guests can be pretty impressive. here are some tips from the head chef at DisneyWorld:

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Louis! Yes this Disney World Chefreally does a great job.

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