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A carving fork is a kitchen utensil designed specifically for carving meat. It is used in conjunction with a carving knife, a very sharp knife which cleanly and efficiently cuts through meats such as roasts. Whether carving is done in the kitchen or at the table, a carving fork is still a very necessary tool, since it anchors the meat, making it easier and less messy to cut. Most kitchen supply stores sell these forks, and they can also be special ordered through companies which specialize in kitchen goods.
Although a carving fork does distantly resemble a table fork, there are a few significant differences. The first is size; a carving fork is much larger than a normal fork, since it is designed to penetrate large roasts with ease. The fork also only has two tines, attached to a long handle, which keeps the hand of the chef clear of the meat and the carving knife. In some cases, a carving fork and knife may be sold as a set, with coordinating handles.
Carving meat can seem like a ritualistic activity when performed at the table, since it is challenging to carve well with an audience. For this reason, some cooks prefer to briefly display roasts and retreat to the kitchen to carve them. However, with a bit of practice, carving meat can be relatively easy to do, and it is a useful skill to have, especially during the holiday season.
The first rule of carving meat is that it is important to allow the meat to sit. While meat sits, it continues to cook, and the flesh firms slightly, which will make carving much easier. Resting will also allow the meat to develop a more rich, intense flavor. Individual servings like steaks and chops can be served immediately, and because of food safety concerns they actually should be served as quickly as possible.
To carve a roast, start by finding the grain of the meat. You want to carve against the grain, using the carving fork as an anchor to prevent the roast from moving. It is also important to insert the tines with care, since each stab with the fork releases juices. Find a stable point to anchor the meat, insert the fork, and start carving portions, serving them directly or piling them onto a serving plate. Periodically, the fork will need to be moved, as the roast shrinks through the carving process. The fork can also be used as a serving utensil, since the prongs can be used to pick up a piece of meat and deposit it on a plate.