WASHINGTON — Don’t let the main dish take away from your beautiful Thanksgiving table this year. A perfectly-carved turkey is achievable and will blend right in with your strategically-designed array of side dishes, if done properly.
Chef Brian Baer of Amphora Catering in Herndon, Virginia, came by the glass-enclosed nerve center to show WTOP how to carve a 23-pound turkey the right way.
“The best way to do this is to take out the different sections, and then slice them. So that way you can keep the meat separate, so the people who like white meat can have white meat, and the people who like dark meat can have dark meat,” Baer told WTOP on Friday.
Baer said the breast bone is a great guiding tool to getting even cuts. Slice alongside the breast bone and remove each whole breast on either side, then cut the separated breasts into even pieces for your guests.
As for the wings and thighs, Baer said if you’re struggling to cut through bone, you’re doing it wrong.
“You have to pop that joint … Then you take the knife and run it right between the joint,” he said. That way, the wings and the thighs completely separate from the turkey smoothly, and with the skin in tact.
If carving is the least of your worries, and just cooking the turkey seems most daunting, Baer had a few tips.
First step: Don’t forget to brine to perfection.
“We use herb, sage, rosemary, thyme and whole butter, and make a compound butter and rub it up underneath the skin. That’s how you keep some juice in there and have the skin turn nice and brown,” Baer said.
He suggests starting the brining process the day before, and letting the mixture sit in a plastic bag or container so that it does not contaminate other food.
After that, it’s all science.
“The different parts of the turkey cook at a different rate. The breast cooks quicker than the thigh joint. So a lot times, you’ll have a perfect breast, but the thigh will be undercooked,” Baer said.
So how do you avoid serving an undercooked bird?
“They’ll put cheese cloth over the piece of breast, or maybe a piece of foil, until the thigh joints catch up,” Baer said. “The way I’m going to cut the turkey today, you can actually take the breast out, and then put the thighs back in the oven.”