The table is set. The guests are gathered. You’ve planned for every possible contingency. But you forgot one thing. Your sleek, chic, trim Tom Cruise of a Thanksgiving turkey will eventually morph into a sweaty, bulky, out of balance, downright gawky John Goodman of a hen by the time it comes of the oven. And you somehow have to get it from the roasting pan to the carving board while decked out in your holiday finery.
Before you commence with the heavy lifting, a few things to cross off your checklist:
- Let the bird rest for 20 minutes in the roasting pan—mostly so the juices slip back between the protein fibers, but also so the thing’s not quite so scalding hot.
- Place the roasting pan as close to the carving board as possible. Don’t even think about attempting a pas-de-deux-de-turkey trot across the kitchen floor.
- Shoo the children out of the kitchen. Likewise, any pets. A dog on meat patrol? A recipe for disaster.
- Get a helper. One whose sole job is to steady the carving board. And who knows how to shut up. Don’t choose your cousin who’s just finishing his Master’s thesis on George Eliot.
- Think back to high-school physics. (See, it did come in handy.) One point under a mass creates a fulcrum. In this instance, that equates to a turkey teeter-totter. Two points beneath a mass afford far better stability. Got it?
Next, take measure of your bird. Is it stuffed or not?
We’re not in favor of turkey lifters, hooks, or other contraptions for toting birds. They tend to be flimsy or afford only a single point of contact.
And we’ve seen a bird trussed with butcher’s twine in such a fancy, convoluted way that it included a looped handle for picking the thing up. We’ve also seen that bird on the floor.
Complicating matters is the fact that open-cavity birds collect a pool of scalding hot juices while roasting, which tend to spew at inopportune moments. You’ll need to tip out the juices carefully into the roasting pan after you hoist the bird but before you can safely transport it. Okay, now that you’re armed with that warning, you can proceed. Our preferred methods of transport? Any of these:
- Put on silicon oven mitts. (Silicon is heat-resistant. Cloth isn’t.) Grasp the bird with both hands—that is, two points of contact. Tip it slightly to empty the hot juices into the roasting pan. Both ways, as there are two openings. Then lift it over the edge of the pan while your helper holds the board in place.
- Use clean kitchen towels as you would oven mitts. Fold them double for more protection. Grasp, tip both ways, and transfer. Keep the towels away from the openings, as the cloth will absorb the hot juices.
- Insert a small rolling pin or the handle of a sturdy wooden spoon into the large opening. Insert the handle of another wooden spoon into the small opening. With these two points of contact, lift the bird. Tip both ways, then transfer the thing to the board.
Things are a little more complicated with a stuffed bird. You could first spoon the mushy goodness into a serving dish while the bird is still in the roasting pan, thereby allowing you to rely on any of the above turkey transport options.
Or you could leave the stuffing inside and intact, provided you’ve first checked to make sure it’s not a bath of juicy, eggy pathogens. Use silicon mitts or clean towels to grasp the whole dang bird and get the centerpiece of the meal to the carving board. But you’ll risk some of the stuffing plopping into the pan and getting coated in gunk. So, in our opinion, spoon it or lose it.
Oh, and if your board doesn’t have a channel around the edge, roll up paper towels and place them around its perimeter, right up against all four sides. They may not be good for the environment, but they’ll absorb the turkey-juice tsunami that may ensue, making clean-up a snap. Chances are you were in the kitchen all day. You don’t want to be there all night, too. Originally published November 19, 2011.
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After a few years of dealing with hot turkeys careening dangerously over my carving board, with juices and grease creating mayhem, I decided to try to carve the beast in my sink. I cleaned the sink, lined it with heavy-duty aluminum foil, and went at it. Success! Because I was over the turkey, I got leverage and a great vantage point. Now, I wouldn’t try it any other way. Thanks for the great articles, though. I very much enjoy reading about your escapades, as well as all the reader stories and tips!
Anna, wow! You win the Genius Award today. That is truly inspired. I know where my bird is ending up this year.
That picture at the top has happened 2 times to me. Once in my old kitchen and once in this one. The first one was because I didn’t have a roasting pan and I used one of those disposable ones, but I didn’t double it up, and didn’t lift from the bottom. The second time was in a double disposable but I was being annoyed by someone (hubby) and wasn’t paying attention to where the pan was on the rack and he went to grab it and it went flying…right across the floor. I had washed the floor really well the day before so we just wiped the bird and served it, unknowingly to our guests. The first time the grease from the bird got all over the floor and I was slipping all over the floor. Plus I was ill, and my mom was driving me nuts trying to help me.
I was at a dinner party last night at the home of some friends, both of whom had read this post, and I discovered that one of their guest’s mom drop the turkey on an icy walkway one Thanksgiving on the way to her son’s home, and it slide all the way to the curb. THAT’s kind of hard to fix up afterwards!
Ooof. I know it’s hard to find the humor in those situations at the time, but I’m hoping you were able to, RisaG. And clearly you had distractions that made the oops inevitable…
I always carve in the kitchen (we Canadians are not concerned about the Rockwell moment). To save the turkey juice tsunami, I place the cutting board in a half sheet pan. When I am done carving, I can put the board in the sink and strain any juices that have accumulated into the gravy.
Turkey juice tsunami, indeed! Brilliant tactic, Inez. Thanks! I’ll be using that trick this year, and I’m certain I’m not the only one…