I first became aware of the importance of carving meat properly as a young steward in the Royal Navy. My Chief Petty Officer instructed me to carve an 181b York ham on the bone, apportioning 4oz of meat for each of the 44 officers.
The secret to successful carving is a razor-sharp knife. I recommend investing in a sharpener with little wheels to draw the knife through, available at most ironmongers. A more traditional way to sharpen knives is on a “steel”, which acts as a fine file.
The simplest way to carve a leg of lamb, venison, ham or pork, is to hold the knuckle or foot end upright. Make an incision about three to four inches from the top and cut a line all the way around the top of the leg. An inch or two below, make another cut diagonally around the leg, which should release a chunk. Working downwards, continue to follow this method.
Lamb will often be more chunky in the slices cut, but venison and other legs will carve into neat complete slices. With legs of pork you will need to remove the crackling before carving. When carving a piece of beef, aim for thin pieces. If it is a piece of sirloin on the bone with the undercut (fillet), carve so your guests receive a slice of the undercut as well as the uppercut (sirloin).
If you are carving chicken, remove the legs first, find the bone joints and chop straight through. Remove the wings in the same fashion and then carve the breast from the breastbone outwards onboth sides, holding the bird firmly in place with a carving fork.
For game, I use game shears and cut the bird right through the middle, lengthwise, allowing half a bird per person. Small birds. such as snipe or woodcock. are best served whole.
Never use an ordinary knife and fork to carve salmon. It is essential to use a proper fish slice and fish fork and preferable to remove the skin beforehand. Make an incision along the length of the backbone, cut through the centre and remove a piece from the back. Carve pieces of three to four inches on each side of the backbone. Turn the fish over and repeat the process.
Carving a side of smoked salmon is a different matter. If the salmon is dry, rub a little oil into it beforehand. Start by removing any protruding bones with a pair of long-nosed pliers or good tweezers. Cut off the gill areas as they obstruct carving. Carefully cut very thin slices, starting about four inches from the tail and working towards the tail end. Then reverse the cutting direction, moving back towards the head, cutting the next slice slightly deeper and continue along the fish in this manner. If you need to keep it for another day, fold the skin back over it to cover, place in cling film and keep in the fridge.