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Carving Meat - thickness of slices?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I was trying to explain to my husband that each cut of meat gets sliced in a different thickness.  Then I thought to start this discussion here because I may be wrong or there may be other thoughts about this.  My understanding is that the more tender the cut of meat is, the thicker the slices should be.  For example, Filet mignon is very tender and sliced very thickly.  Prime rib which is also very tender is usually served in about 1in slices.  But roast beef made from top round is usually sliced very thin because it is not as tender.  Last night we made a boneless leg of lamb and served it in 1/2inch carvings. 

 

So, what do you all think?  How thickly should each of these roasts be sliced and served?

 

- Prime rib

- Roast beef

- Chuck roast

- Leg of lamb

- Shoulder of lamb

- Turkey/Chicken

- Duck breast

- Filet mignon

- pork belly

 

... or any other cut that I forgot to list.

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post #2 of 9

You're not wrong.  You're right, as usual.  There's more to it though.

 

The primary idea is to put a portion on the plate which the diner can cut into perfect bites with an appropriate table or steak knife.  One of the first rules of carving is not to cut so thick that a lady cannot cut the meat, without undue difficulty, into pieces small enough to get into her mouth without disturbing her lipstick.  If you can drill that concept into your husband's head you've not only struck a major blow against inconsiderate maleness, but for feminism as well.  You go girl! 

 

Of course, tenderness makes a HUGE difference.  Tender meat is easy to cut on the plate and easy to eat as well.  However, the tenderness of a given piece of meat is one of several considerations.  You also have to decide whether you want to cut straight or on the bias; whether you want to cut with or across the grain; etc. 

 

Meat which is so well cooked it's in danger of falling apart is often carved thick.  Brisket gets that way sometimes, and sometimes not.  It depends.  Greek lamb is often very well done, so same thing.  French "7 Hour" lamb is so tender it can be  "carved with a spoon -- and if you CAN do it, then you SHOULD do it, because why not? 

 

Bone a leg out, butterfly it, and cook it on the grill and it's a very different story.  Carving starts -- or should start -- with breaking the roast into its constituent muscles and carving each into whatever thickness is most appropriate for a bite.  You usually carve thinner if you're going to serve on bread, as for a sandwich.

 

There are an awful lot of cuts which qualify as "Chuck Roast," and they can be cooked in all sorts of different ways which lead to all sorts of results and which in turn lead to a variety of right ways to carve.  It depends. 

 

Ham, even very tender ham, is usually sliced thin.  The idea there is not so much as to deal with tenderness but to keep from getting a mouth full of salt.  But thinness actually tends to bring out flavor, so there's a balance.  It depends.

 

Prime rib can be sliced thin, in the English style, or thick as we Americans usually prefer.  It -- you may be sensing a theme developing, a leitmotif if you will -- depends.

 

Birds large enough to require carving, are usually best "broken," and the large pieces individually carved.  Breasts are usually laid on the board, and carved on the bias across the shortest bias.  The breast rule goes for turkey, chicken AND duck. Thighs, if large enough to carve, should be boned before slicing.  Once boned, they are fragile and are best carved in whatever way you can keep some integrity for the slices.   It... wait for it... depends. 

 

A very sharp, efficient knife is a blessing.  Longer knives usually make better carver/slicers than shorter -- but don't use anything that won't fit on your board or that's too long for you to handle comfortably.  There's nothing wrong with an electric carving knife -- lots of people find them much easier to handle than regular carving knives; although, of course, they're aren't as elegant.

 

It depends,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 1/11/13 at 10:01am
post #3 of 9

Commercially and not the home  a lot depends on what they are paying, that determines portion cutn and size.  The above info is quite true in regard to the various cuts.

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post #4 of 9

Another thing to consider is that less tender cuts of meat should be sliced against the grain so that one does not chew on long strands of meat. The thinner the slices the shorter the strands.
 

post #5 of 9

All cuts regardless of what should be sliced cross grain.

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post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by ED BUCHANAN View Post

All cuts regardless of what should be sliced cross grain.


Yepp, you're absolutely right there! :-)

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

Ok there's a lot to consider.  So cut by cut what do you prefer?  Ever sat at a table and been served a cut of meat and you know it hasn't been carved well?

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #8 of 9
Posted by Koukouvagia View Post

Ok there's a lot to consider.... Ever sat at a table and been served a cut of meat and you know it hasn't been carved well?


Sure.  But what can you do?

 

Cut by cut what do you prefer?

 

I've been through that for most of the meats and birds you already mentioned.  Which specific cuts are you talking about?  How were they cooked?

 

I'd carve a well done leg of lamb roast on the bone differently than I'd slice one which was rare/mid-rare.  I'd accept more chunking with the first since the meat would have a tendency to fall apart both as I carved and on the plate; but go for more definite slices with the second.  Thickness would depend somewhat on what part of the leg I was taking slices from, as well as the tenderness of the meat.  And sometimes, especially if the anatomy is as complicated as a lamb leg, you just have to go with the flow.  That's part of the reason why -- if you prefer your lamb leg not too well done -- to butterfly before cooking, even if you're going to roll it and roast it after.  It makes for easier and uniform carving.  Then, you'd cut slices -- straight down, not on the bias -- with a thickness which complimented the tenderness of the meat and according to the "lady's lipstick rule" that I wrote about earlier.

 

A rolled and tied lamb roast is a good example of meat which cannot always be carved against the grain, because a leg of lamb includes several different muscles and they aren't all oriented in the same direction.  Beef chuck and round roasts can be the same.  It just depends.

 

Getting back to that leg of lamb -- which I know functions as a big part of your life -- it's very helpful to the carver if the cook does the right prep; which takes us back to butterflying the leg before cooking.  As your husband starts hacking away, try to bear in mind that carving a leg of lamb on the bone isn't any easier than boning one before cooking -- it takes the same degree of practice and patience.  Another example of prep before cooking is breaking the chine bone (if necessary) where you want the cuts made and removing the feather bones from cuts of meat which came from the loin area -- prime rib, rack of lamb, pork loin roasts, etc.  Of course, you should have your butcher do this if possible. 

 

When you do have to carve meat from a leg bone (lamb, ham, veal, etc.) it's usually a good idea to "undercut" for a distance along the bone, carve the slices down to the undercut; then to turn the leg and repeat when the undercut runs out.   

 

Something I forgot to mention that has some bearing is whether the carving will be done in the kitchen or at the table. Some things are best done in the kitchen.  Turkey for instance. We always think of carving the turkey as something done in front of the family, ala Rockwell, but it's really much easier to do in the kitchen, just as all the cooking magazines are now teaching.   

 

Another important part of carving is having the right tools -- and that not only includes the right knife/knives but a fork and a good, amply-sized wooden board.  A good fork is helpful.  I think that a straight "bayonet" style cooking fork is not only more versatile but helpful to keep slices straight then a curved "carving fork."   Carving sets are only as useful as their quality.

 

Carving on metal or ceramic is difficult.  So is carving on serving on platters which have sides.  You should have at least one large board with a "juice" channel which you reserve for carving.  It doesn't have to be expensive, nor does it need to be attractive enough for service.  Some meats -- ham especially -- are much easier to cook if the board includes some sort of holder or spike system to keep the "joint" steady.  But that's getting pretty deep into it. 

 

Yet another consideration is making sure the meat is well rested and ready to carve, before getting into it.  It holds together better. 

 

There's a lot to this subject; more than can be covered in a single post. 

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 1/12/13 at 6:36am
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

I only see turkeys carved at the table on tv.  While it's nice to put a whole turkey in the center of the table for show it's not very practical.  It's much easier to carve in the kitchen and then arrange in a platter for easy serving. 

 

I go regularly for dinner at a home where the carving is done in the kitchen and the meat is directly portioned and plated.  When I invite these folks to my house I have to do the same because I've learned the hard way that if I put in a platter then they simply don't know what to do and just start grabbing the meat with their hands or their forks rather the servingwear.  So there is that to consider.  You can't school people in etiquette.  I've seen serving spoons licked lol.

 

I've also seen cases where turkey is sliced and served without the skin - which is horrifying!! lol

 

I don't make leg of lamb often enough to know what to do, but the .5inch slices came out great.  I more often serve a slow cooked shoulder of lamb and there's no point to slicing that, as soon as I touch the meat it pulls so I indeed serve it in chunks with a spoon.  I've done that with chuck too.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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