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A Gentleman’s Guide to Carving the Turkey at Someone Else’s Place

  • Jason Wire


Your girlfriend’s family. Your friends. Clooney.

Odds are, at some point in your life, one of these will invite you to Thanksgiving. (Even better odds if the last two are redundant.)

And there you’ll be, ready to make small talk and compliment the hell out of some casserole, when you’ll hear it: a polite question that’s really more of a demand. Would you like to carve the turkey?

The answer, of course, is yes. But unless you come prepared, things could go horribly wrong.

Herewith, a few key pointers...

1. Sharp knives make great gifts. And even better tools for carving turkeys, as it turns out. So here’s what you’ll do: bring a brand-new, sharp-as-hell chef’s knife as your gift. Two reasons: 1) in the event of being tasked with carving responsibilities, you won’t have to rely on your host’s potentially dull cutlery; and 2) it’s far more original than another bottle of wine.

2. Make sure you’ve got elbow room. You’re not spreading butter here. You’re disembodying one of the largest birds in North America, and you need to minimize the chance of that bird somehow landing on a snowflake sweater. You need enough space to attack from above—in other words, don’t wait until the turkey’s in the center of the table to make with the carving. Or if it is, excuse yourself and the bird to the kitchen and return with ceremony.

3. Attack with vigor. Countless how-to articles and slideshows have been created on this subject. This one in particular is extremely clear. So I’ll spare you the tutorial (but recommend you keep a step-by-step bookmarked in your iPhone). The main thing to keep in mind, though, is to be swift and assertive with your actions, and not to hold back—a good rule of thumb for most things in life.

4. “He who carves, serves.” That’s not a real saying. But it should be. You just had your way with 15 to 25 pounds of bird, and you’re certainly not going to let someone else finish the job. So proceed into the dining room. Embrace the attention. Serve the women first, the men second, and if somehow the most tender, delicious pieces end up on your plate at the end...

... well, call it a Thanksgiving miracle.