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Monday, October 29, 2012

Why you want to Carve the Turkey ahead of time and How to Do it!

 Hi Everybody! It's Monday! it's a cold day here in Texas which I am really enjoying because for most part of the year we get thick/humid/hot climate! I am happy the sky is blue, sunny and the breeze is cold! It's wonderful!

So... Going through my Thanksgiving Menu I already shared with you the recipes for the easy, stress-free appetizers:

Deviled Eggs and Stuffed Celery

I don't need to share to you the "recipe" for a "veggie tray" and dip, right? Again! Thinking of being "practical, efficient and stress-free" I suggest you just do your veggie chopping the previous day (unless you're buying the tray already prepared) and have all the vegetables individually refrigerated in ziploc bags.

Now... Going to our "Entree" section in our Menu... Let's begin with the Turkey... I already gave you a chart to know the "time to bake" per pound (both stuffed and unstuffed) here

Now it's time for me to just make some quick suggestions... First of all, if you use an oven bag (which I highly recommend) just know that the skin of the turkey won't be crispy but it can still have some color to it! How? When you prepare your turkey (with whatever seasonings you use) make sure you add paprika to the mix, and it will give you a beautiful, dark golden color. Especially if you want the big, whole turkey on your Thanksgiving Table for beautiful pictures. BUT here is where my biggest suggestion comes:

Carve the turkey ahead of time! Especially if this is your first time Hosting and/or you want to take some stress off of your Thanksgiving Dinner!

1. Let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes right after taking it out of the oven before doing any kind of cut to it. If you get a knife in it, all the juices will just drain out of the turkey and the meat will not be as moist.

2. Once it's rested, Carve your turkey ahead of time and separate dark from white meat! I know you want to take pictures of your beautiful turkey at the Thanksgiving Table, but it might not be too practical to let your guests grab a piece for themselves or if you want to carve it in front of everybody at the table you'll just add stress to the process, you'll worry about the tablecloth even! you will have the pressure of everybody watching your every move when carving, and it might not even be as safe! It's better if you have a nice, empty surface in your kitchen, where you can feel free to move! and it won't be as messy! Plus you get the chances of getting better use of ALL THE MEAT in that turkey!

What you will need to carve that turkey:

1. A great carving knife! You can use a sharp boning knife or get a good electric knife which will be very useful! like this one

2. A carving fork like this one

3. A good, big enough, cutting board.

4. Confidence! (Don't be afraid of that bird! You can do it! and again, it doesn't have to be "perfect") especially because, you're not doing it in front of everybody!

So here are the steps to carve a turkey:

How to carve a turkey: step by step! (you can practice with a roasted chicken ahead of time)

Note: -it seems like a lot but I've just gone into big detail to make it very clear- it's actually an easy task! trust me, all you basically have to do is remove the legs, remove the meat from them and keep warm, remove the breast halves from the rib cage, bias cut all the meat into serving size portions and you're done. Here are the steps though:

  • Place the turkey on the cutting board or a platter, breast side up, with the legs facing away from you. Steady it with the carving fork in your guide hand.
  • Cut through the skin that connects one of the legs to the carcass, cutting as close to the leg as possible. (do this for both legs) - Remove the skin from the turkey if desired, that's what I do, especially when using an oven bag to bake it -
  • Set down the knife and pull the leg to make some space from the bird until the ball joint that connects it to the carcass pops (Use a towel to protect your hands if the turkey is too hot.) Once the joint is exposed use a boning knife to cut right through it and easily remove the leg. (do this for both legs)
  • Lay the leg on the board, with the knee facing you, and feel for the joint connecting the drumstick bone and the thigh bone. Once you feel the joint just Place the knife blade directly on it and cut straight through to the board. (There shouldn't be much or any resistance. If you there is, the blade is on the bone, not the joint. Feel for the joint again and adjust the position of the blade accordingly.) (do this for both legs)
  • With your guide hand (left, if you are right handed), hold a drumstick vertically by the end of the bone (the ankle) and let it the other side firmly rest on the cutting board. Then use your knife to cut from the the side you're holding, right to the bottom to remove the meat (do this all around the bone, as close to the bone as possible) -do this with both drumsticks-
  • Once you have big pieces of meat you've removed from the drumsticks, slice them into serving-size pieces (horizontally)
  • Now Lay a thigh on the cutting board, (if you left the skin on, the thigh should be with skin side down) and steady it with the carving fork in your guide hand. Cut along both sides of the bone, from one end to the other (do this with both thighs)
  • Rotate the thigh and just slide your knife between the bone and the rest of the meat, pulling the bone out and removing it completely. -same thing with the other thigh-
  • Now that you have removed all the meat from the thigh, bias-cut it into serving-size slices.
  •  Grip a wing with your guide hand and pull it away from the carcass, just enogh so you can see where it is attached.
  •  Direct the tip of the knife until you feel right between the ball joint of the wing and the socket.
  • Place all that dark meat in a crock pot in low or inside a warm oven covered with aluminum foil to keep warm. You can also use a big skillet with a tight lid in very low heat and gently stir occasionally. - add a tiny little bit -almost nothing- of liquid if necessary-
  • Cut all the way through the joint, through any meat and/or skin, and remove the wing from the carcass.
  • Rotate the turkey so that the other wing is facing your guide hand. Repeat previous steps to remove it. 
  • Now you just have the breast! Steady the side of the breast you’re not carving with the carving fork in your guide hand.
  •  Make a long, thin cut along the breastbone, in the center top of the breast.
  •  Using the tip of the knife, cut down right along one side of the rib cage, then lay down the carving fork and use your guide hand to push or pull the breast half gently away from the ribs as you cut.
  •  Let the knife blade ride the rib cage straight down to the socket where the wing was attached. Cut until the breast half is completely removed. -Do the same thing for the other breast half. Use your carving fork on the rib cage/breastbone to steady the other half-
  •  Lay the breast halves on the cutting board, skin side up (or what would've had the skin side up), and bias-cut it into serving-size slices.
  •  Place white separate crock pot/pan in the oven and/or skillet to keep warm until it's time to serve.
Make sure you plan ahead of time, use the baking/time chart here to know what time you want the turkey in the oven, if your Thanksgiving Dinner for example will be at 4 p.m. and you have a 20 pound unstuffed bird, you want to place the turkey in the oven at 8:30 or 9 a.m. -the latest- This will give you 5 1/2 hours (2:30 to 3:00 p.m.) to bake the Turkey, plus 30 minutes to let it rest, plus time to carve and keep warm. If you are using an Oven Bag, with the same scenario (Unstuffed 20 pound bird) then you can get it in the oven at 11 or 11:30 a.m. at a temperature of 350F, to bake for about 3 1/2 hours, give it time to rest, carve, keep warm.

If you have a "buffet style kind of dinner" you can have the guests serve their choice of dark/white meat directly from the crock pots, your line will go very fast because everything is "ready and cut" for them. If you're keeping the meat warm in the oven, just get it out and let themselves serve from the pans (warn them it's all hot!) Or, if you want to set it all at your Thanksgiving Table, transfer the meat (separate white and dark) to warm dishes with a lid that you can display in the center of your table.

My mom and sister

Nobody will have to mess up with cutting, you'll avoid the stress of "carving in the middle of a table with all the guests around you" and everybody will focus on enjoying! Plus, you won't deal with bones at the table and you'll get better use of all the meat!

Easy, breezy! Happy with her Thanksgiving Plate!

If you have a helpful husband like I do, make sure to keep him around! (LOL!) or make a deal with him "previous" to the event, so you don't have to be "telling him what to do" ... My husband helped me keep my trash can empty, clean surfaces after me, get rid of bones, and keep paper towel handy and ready for me to use!

I hope you'll host! I really do! And I hope that if you've been hosting Thanksgiving for years but it's always been stressful and something you just dread and want to get over with, my tips will help you enjoy it this time!

© Paloma K.

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