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How to Carve Meat

Updated on December 4, 2011
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The Principles of Good Carving

Good carving is an economy. A skilled carver makes a joint go much further than one who merely hacks off the meat. If possible, always allow the meat to 'rest' in a warm place for 10-15 minutes before carving. This will make the meat firmer and easier to carve more evenly and economically.

1. The first essential is a long-bladed sharp carving knife. The blade should be sharpened to a keen edge each time before use, and then wiped with a clean cloth to remove any metal dust.

2. The second essential is a carving fork fitted with a guard. This protects the carver's hand should the knife slip accidentally.

3. Place the joint firmly on a large warmed dish. A wooden board can be used and spiked dishes are particularly good for holding the joint firmly in place and preventing it from slipping. Boards or dishes with gulleys to catch the meat juices also have advantages.

4. Use the knife with a gentle sawing movement so that it passes smoothly through the meat.

5. Whenever possible carve across the grain of the meat, thus shortening the fibers so the meat is more tender to eat.

Carving Lamb on the Bone

A roast tastes best when the meat is carved in fairly thick, 6 mm [£"] slices. When sliced too thinly much of the flavor and succulence is lost. One of the secrets of professional carving is knowing where and how the bones lie within the joint.

Leg and shoulder

The best methods of carving a leg and shoulder are shown in step-by-step pictures. You may also want to roast and carve a halved shoulder. Both the shank end and the blade end are carved in the same manner as a whole shoulder. If a leg is halved, the shank end of the leg is carved as for a leg, but the fillet end is laid cut side upward (as shown) for carving.

Remember that legs and shoulders may be taken from either the right- or left-hand side of the animal and will differ accordingly.


A saddle comprises two loins joined together but is carved in rather a different way, as shown in the step-by-step pictures. Meat is entirely freed from the backbone and ribs before being sliced.

Best end of neck

This joint is prepared by the butcher to aid carving. He may have chined it, so that after cooking you can remove the whole length of the backbone before carving. Alternatively, the butcher will have cut through the backbone between the ribs. In either case, carve by cutting between the rib bones to divide the meat into 12 mm [f ] thick cutlets.

Loin of lamb

The butcher will have chopped this joint through the backbone between the ribs. To carve, simply cut between the rib bones dividing the meat into 12 mm [|"] thick chops.

Carving Roast Beef

Let the beef rest 15 minutes in a warm place to become set before carving.

This is even more important for beef than for lamb, as the slices are traditionally thin. Remove all strings before carving the meat. Once car­ved, the slices of beef cool quickly, so they should always be put on to very hot plates for serving.

Always carve across the grain of the meat using a very sharp knife and a fork with a guard. A carving dish studded with metal prongs will hold the joint steady. A small sunken area at one end of the dish is useful as the meat is very juicy. Spoon up these juices and add them to the gravy.

Boned, rolled meat can be carved by standing it lengthways on the dish and carving downward in slices. A smaller rolled joint is best standing upright in the dish and carved across horizontally.


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