Carve out some time to sharpen your knives

Carving knife

Thanksgiving meal plans are coming into focus and you've probably starting a few make-ahead items. When the big day arrives, you'll have more work, up to and including the turkey carving. But before you dice the first onion, there is one important task to complete: sharpening your knives.

Whether it means a trip to the kitchen store to let the pros handle it or digging out the sharpening stones to do it yourself, putting fresh edges on your knives will make meal preparation much easier. If you want to try your hand at sharpening or need a refresher course, the folks at Zwilling J.A. Henckels have enlisted kitchen knife guru Bob Kramer to make a short video demonstrating basic knife sharpening using a stone and a steel.

Don't forget to sharpen the carving knife as well as your chef's and paring knives. You'll need it when slicing that golden, moist, beautiful turkey. You may want to revisit turkey carving techniques before the big day, and luckily it's easy to find many video tutorials, each with a different spin on how to deconstruct the bird.

A few basic items are essential regardless of carving technique. First, let the turkey rest for 15 to 30 minutes after you remove it from the oven to let the juices redistribute. Secure the bird on the cutting board with several paper towels or a clean, damp dishcloth so it doesn't scoot around. This is both for safety while cutting and to prevent the bird from "flying" off the cutting board and onto the floor. Warm your platter or serving tray so the turkey doesn't get too cool in the time it takes to carve it.

Then it all comes down to preferred technique. Butcher Ray Venezia, in a video for the NY Times, uses a short chef's knife to make the major cuts and a longer flexible knife to slice the breast and thigh meat. This video has good coverage of how to spot the joints and a nice treatment on how to remove the breast intact by using a combination of pulling and cutting. He also advises not to cut the breast too thinly or it will dry out before it hits the table. One caveat about his carving: Venezia instructs you to remove the skin because it will dull your knife, but for most of us this would be unthinkable.

Good news for southpaws: The Washington Post's Bonnie Berwick carves a turkey left-handed in this video. She uses the more traditional breast removal technique of using a horizontal cut as well as a vertical one. This video also demonstrates how to remove the "oyster" after the main pieces have been removed. Real Simple's video also features traditional carving techniques, this time by a right-hander using a large chef's knife and a long flexible knife.

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