Thanks to Michael Symon’s Live Class, I Finally Understand How to Carve a Turkey

It's OK if it's messy.

November 25, 2019

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking to friends and co-workers about Thanksgiving, it’s that every household has a designated person who cooks the turkey. For my family, I’m that person. Probably, this is unsurprising, given that I did go to professional culinary school, worked as a cook for a while, and now write about food for a living.

But believe it or not, carving the turkey is always a stressful for me.

I blame it on the countless turkey photos I’ve seen on magazine covers and Instagram. The turkey is always gorgeously sliced, its evenly burnished skin not only completely intact, but also covering every single individual slice completely — like it was glued to the meat (and maybe, for the sake of photo-magic, it was?). Year after year, I want to achieve that look of perfection, and do it flawlessly at the dinner table in front of all the guests with my mother’s silver fork and carving knife.

In reality, my turkey usually slides around on the platter as I tackle it with the antique tools, juice coming dangerously close to running off the serving platter onto the immaculately clean linen tablecloth that’s used precisely one time each year. Don’t get me wrong — I get the job done. But let’s just say that the turkey skin by no means stays completely attached to each slice.

But maybe this year will be different: After watching Michael Symon carve a turkey in a live class on the Food Network Kitchen app, something clicked for me.

For starters, he cuts it in the kitchen on a regular cutting board with a sharp chef’s knife. Good tools, nothing fancy — and no expectant eyes watching him at the head of the dinner table.

Plus, it's eye-opening to see him carve a bird on live TV, where no editing is possible. Yes, his cuts are swift and precise — after all, this is a man who’s carved about 1,000 turkeys in his lifetime, as he tells us during the segment. But there are still rivulets of turkey juice all over his board. The skin is slightly torn in one place and by no means does it stay 100 percent on the meat. Symon even acknowledges that it’s a messy business, saying he always keeps a dry side towel and a damp one on hand — brilliant.

He does a spetacular job, it was also refereshing to see a tutorial that's so "real." The segment reassures me — no bird is going to slice absolutely perfectly, but with the right tools and a can-do attitude, everyone is going to love the presentation.

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