The holidays are a time for traditions, celebrated by family and friends gathered around crackling fireplaces and tables full of festive dishes, including massive, crispy-skinned turkeys. The act of carving the turkey tableside is a tradition that goes back generations and has both symbolic and practical roots. Typically, the head of the household carves the turkey before guests as a symbol of hospitality. Doing it tableside is partly for showmanship, but also ensures that juicy pieces of turkey stay warm and don’t dry out sitting on a platter in the kitchen.
For the uninitiated, carving a turkey can be a daunting task. No one wants a thanksgiving feast ruined by unsightly hunks of hacked up bird. The ideal carving job should yield hearty, cleanly sliced pieces of turkey, separated into piles of light and dark meat. With a sharp knife and a little patience, carving a turkey should be simple and straightforward. Most importantly, before carving any turkey, make sure you let the bird rest for at least 30 minutes after it’s come out of the oven.