After hours of preparation, cooking and time spent in the kitchen, the final stage before sitting down to eat your choice of bird is to carve the meat.
In this gude we take you through the steps for carving chicken, duck and turkey.
This should be done in a way so that the juices of the meat are retained, leaving each slice of meat delicious and flavoursome.
You should never carve the meat as soon as it comes out of the oven, but let the bird stand and rest for at least 15 minutes on a carving board, so that the juices are reabsorbed into the meat and distributed evenly. Covering the bird with a tent of aluminium foil whilst it is resting will help keep the heat in at the same time.
Allowing the meat to stand will also make carving easier.
In order to carve the bird easily you will need a very sharp knife, preferably with a thin blade and a fork to hold the bird in place.
The first step is to remove any trussing skewers or string if you trussed the bird before roasting.
Now for the carving. The simplest way is to first remove the legs, thighs and wings from the main part of the body. This can easily be done by separating the leg pieces at the joints, which connect the various pieces together. You can do this by gently pulling away and twisting the leg portions so that the joints snap free, or you may have to use your knife to sever the connecting joint to separate the pieces.
Not only is it less complicated to start with the leg portions, but the darker meat areas of the bird should be cut first as they will stay moister for slightly longer than the white drier meat.
So, with one hand, take hold of the end of the drumstick and gently pull the drumstick away from the body. At the same time, cut downwards between the leg and the body of the bird until you come to the joint that connects the leg to the body. By wiggling the leg, it may separate from the body without having to cut through the joint. Otherwise, just cut through the joint to separate the two pieces. Do not cut through the bone, as it is not necessary. It will only make things more difficult and time consuming and will possibly ruin your knife.
Do the same on the other side of the body.
With the leg piece in your hand, the next step is to separate the upper part of the leg, the thigh from the lower part of the leg, the drumstick.
This is simply done by cutting through the joint that connects the two pieces.
Many people like to eat the drumsticks whole and so there is no need to slice this part of the poultry meat. The same can be said for the thigh meat.
Even so, if you do wish to carve the meat from the drumstick and thigh, it can also be carried out very easily.
To carve the drumstick, hold the drumstick vertically, grasping the top end with your hand and the fleshy part resting on the carving board. Carve small and thin slices of meat until you reach the bone.
Likewise, to carve the thigh meat, rest the thigh piece on the carving board and hold in place with a fork, whilst you carve thin slices of meat parallel to the bone.
The final stage before reaching the breast meat is to remove the wing. Hold the free part of the wing with one hand, gently pulling it away from the body of the bird. As you do so, cut down into the area that lies between the wing and the breast until you reach the shoulder joint. Then, simply cut through the joint, not the bone, and pull the wing away from the bird. Do the same on the other side of the bird.
The wing piece may be further cut into two pieces at the elbow joint in the middle.
Now that the bottom leg pieces and wings have been removed from the bird, you will be able to reach the breast meat and carve it away easily.
Make a big cut horizontally, as far as you can, in the area underneath the breast meat, from the wing area inside towards the ribs.
Then, whilst steadying the bird, and holding it in place with the fork, slice downwards with the knife, through the breast meat, cutting thin slices until you come to the horizontal cut made previously. The breast meat should simply fall away in nice, even, similarly cut slices.
If you stuffed the bird before cooking, make sure you remove portions of stuffing to accompany the meat, by cutting into the side of the bird, where the leg portion used to be and making an opening from which the stuffing can be removed.
The meat should then be ready to serve and each guest will be able to enjoy pieces of meat from their favourite part of the bird.
Don't forget that a delicious stock or soup can be made from the carcass and unwanted meat pieces, so not one part of the bird need go to waste (see our guide
on making poultry stock).