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How to carve a roast

Are you ready to master the art of carving a roast?

Carving a beef or lamb roast correctly can take a little practice, but with these helpful tips you’ll find yourself slicing and serving with ease, confidence and success in no time.

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With practice comes perfection

The principle of carving is to obtain the greatest number of large, attractive slices of meat from the joint. Whatever the size or shape of roast, some basic guidelines always apply.

  • For firmer, easier carving, allow roast meats to rest in a warm place for at least 15-20 minutes covered loosely with foil. This will ensure a juicier result.
  • Remove any string or skewers as you get to them.
  • It is advisable to use a carving board even if the meat is to be carved at the table.
  • If carving at the table, present the roast on a heated serving platter, then transfer it to a board for carving. This protects the serving platter from being scratched and the knife blade from being dulled by the surface of the platter. As the meat is carved, place slices on the serving platter.
  • Use a slicing rather than sawing action, making use of the full length of the blade in a gentle follow-through motion with each slice. Apply only enough pressure to cut meat fibres; too much pressure will bruise or tear the meat, spoiling the appearance.
  • Carve across the grain wherever possible. This will aid tenderness.
  • Preheat plates and the serving platter before carving as meat slices lose heat faster than a whole joint. Serve individual portions on to the heated plates when carving is completed.

Carving equipment

Carving knives:

When carving a roast with the correct, smooth slicing motion (rather than a messy sawing motion), it is vital that you use the correct knife. Firstly, your knife will need to be sharp. Secondly, shape is important. The blade of the knife must be long, slender and strong. So while the wide, triangular blade of a chef’s knife is excellent for everyday kitchen tasks such as chopping vegetables, it is really too thick and blunt to slice meat precisely and too short to get through a big roast in a single stroke. Even worse, the pointed tip wedges into the meat, forcing you to saw back and forth to finish the task. The result: thick, ridged, uneven slices.

A set of quality stainless steel knives is indispensable to the skilled carver. To prolong the life of your knives do not use them for any other purpose besides carving. It is best to wash the knives by hand in hot water as soon as possible after use. Never put them in the dishwasher, or they may become nicked and dulled. Store knives in a separate drawer away from other kitchen utensils.

Carving fork:

The function of the carving fork is to allow you to steady the roast and carve safely. Purchase one with a guard, two prongs and a long handle.

Electric knife:

To get the best results with an electric knife do not saw or exert any pressure, simply guide the blades and bear down lightly, cutting across the grain of the meat. Do not attempt to cut through bone, as this will damage the blades. Always slice on a carving board as china or metal surfaces may scratch. With normal use, the blades of the electric knife should not need sharpening. However, if they do need attention, do not attempt to sharpen them yourself. Return the knife to the manufacturer for service.

Carving board:

Your carving board should only be used for carving cooked meat. Do not use it for preparing raw meat or vegetables. After each use wash it with very hot soapy water, scrub well with a brush, then rinse in hot water. Pat dry with paper towels and allow it to air-dry thoroughly.

Note: Regardless of your preference for wood or plastic carving boards it’s essential to keep the boards clean and in good condition. Because plastic and wood can retain bacteria, it’s important to use different boards for different purposes and to wash with very hot soapy water and dry them well. Replace boards when their surface has become noticeably knife-scarred or cracked.