Tips for Decorating a Turkey Platter

DO YOU BRING YOUR TURKEY TO THE TABLE already sliced up — or do you present the roasted bird whole, on a decorated tray? I’m in the latter camp. Watch me create a frame for the turkey you see pictured above, and then join me in the parlor for a fireside feast:

Speaking from experience, if you ornament a platter with whole pomegranates, walnuts, and other bulky items (as some magazine photos suggest),  you’ll have one hell of a time carving the bird. A better plan is to limit the works to edible leaves and slices of fruit.

First, select a platter. A silver tray with handles or an oval-shaped ceramic platter will do. Lacking either, you can use a stout, rimmed baking sheet. The silver salver pictured above is actually the base for my coffee and tea service. It’s the only tray I own that can accommodate a good-sized turkey.

Next, line the tray with an impeccably clean terry-towel. The towel will keep the turkey from slipping and sliding as you carve it.

Now take a good look at your turkey. Is it trussed with twine? Are its legs imprisoned in a plastic clamp? Remove these devices.

Center the bird on the towel.

To hide the towel, surround the turkey with edible greens. I can tell you that baby arugula leaves (available at most grocery stores and farmers markets) are easy to work with. They look rather luxurious, too. I used just 5 ounces of leaves to cover my enormous tray.

You could very well present this green-framed turkey as is. But if you’d like to kick it up a notch, consider adding some fruit. Lemons or oranges are always nice, especially if you used such fruits when flavoring the bird. But if you brined your turkey, as I did, with a solution that involved apple cider, proceed this way:

Grab a pair of bright red apples…

Core them…

And slice them.

Soak the slices briefly in a solution of equal parts lemon juice and water (to keep them from turning brown)…

And then place them atop the greens, all around the bird.

Well. The fire is lit. The turkey is roasted. The platter is decorated.

What’s say we eat?

In the comments field below, let me know how your own holiday preparations are coming along. Or, just say “howdy.” As always, I love hearing from you.

Meanwhile…Happy Thanksgiving, all!

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Related Posts:
Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up: Sexy Sides
Kevin’s Caramelized Butternut Squash Soup
Persian Lime Pie
A Better Pumpkin Pie
Autumn Garden Tour with Lily the Beagle


  1. Susan L. Espersen says:

    Hey Kevin, you left out the most exciting part! I wanted to see a picture of the bird in transfer!!! I have huge big fork devices, specifically made for this, but it is still a challenge! Lovely dinner presentation and I love your tray!

  2. Susan – Ha! I’m so accustomed to picking up hot food with my (impeccably clean) hands that I have no need for turkey-transfer gadgets. And by the way, good luck on your big, BIG wedding day!

  3. badger gardener says:

    I’m working a half-day tomorrow and then it’s home to start Thanksgiving prep. I so love cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I have to admit though I never present the bird, choosing instead to carve it in the kitchen with nobody watching as it is usually a messy affair involving more hands than knife. Yours looks so pretty though that maybe I’ll have to rethink it. Perhaps put it on the table for a brief display then whisk it back into the kitchen for “carving”.

  4. To stuff or not to stuff – I have always stuffed. Years ago my MIL’s unstuffed turkey was flavorless and I always attribute better flavor with a stuffed turkey so that is how I have been doing it for about 20 years. This year I am thinking of stuffing the breast part only. I am crazy about that crispy skin with the dressing underneath! Should I put anything in the body cavity? The bottom seems to cook to fast as it is, will an unstuffed turkey body cook faster and the stuffed breast area even slower? I use an electric roasting oven to cook my turkey to free up the oven for other baked items.

    The other day someone told me they use an apricot glaze on their turkey to get a nice brown color. Any suggestions as to glaze or not? Sometimes the roaster doesn’t brown the entire turkey, especially if the breast is close to the lid, but the breast ends up juicy and not overcooked.

  5. Hi Patty – To be safe to eat, both bird and stuffing must reach 165°F. But here’s the problem: the turkey will reach that temp long before the stuffing does. Consequently you end up with dried-out breast meat. Better to cook the stuffing (or dressing) in a separate dish. To achieve a deliciously-crispy skin, I always uncover my turkey during the final 30-45 minutes of roasting. The apricot glaze sounds wonderful, though. If you use it, let me know the bird turns out for you.

  6. Although we will carve in the kitchen, your idea of putting the bird on a terry towel is brilliant! Does the juice all wash out okay?

  7. Hi Tricia B. – The towels cleans up beautifully. I simply launder it with a little bleach. .

  8. A very dashing arrangement. Wish we had your fireplace to sit next to. I work today and Friday. I cook tomorrow. I love doing it–I’m looking forward to a cold day outside and warm cooking smells inside. I started a pie for my hubby just now…looks pretty sad, but he is my best cooking fan, so it will be fine. Happy Thanksgiving, Kevin, to you and your loved ones1

  9. BTW, I am thankful for this blog. I like the food and photos and tours and cocktails and humor and the basic kindness you seem to show to all creatures great and small. Thank you.

  10. We do our Thanksgiving celebration the Saturday after the actual holiday, a habit I started when working in retail which has proven to take a lot of stress off. Since many guests have already had turkey dinners at least one time elsewhere by then, the past few years I’ve chosen alternative menus: seafood, ribs, and thisyear it’s Mexican-themed. I’ll have bacon-wrapped jalopenos and chile con queso with margaritas for the appetisers. The first course will be chicken tortilla soup, followed by main dishes of enchiladas and beef chili with cornbread and Mexican green rice as sides. We’ll have sangria during the meal, followed by desserts of Mexican wedding cookies, Mexican Mocha bars, and Tres Leches cake. Muy bueno! (My apologies to any true hispanics out there for menu mistakes–I’m European-American and my husband is French…lol)

  11. Just happy we made it through the First year without Dad, even though he was 98, he was a Lively 98

  12. A Happy Thanksgiving poem for you:

    about the cooking

    It isn’t just the actual cooking
    it is the joy that flows
    from inside me
    to overlay every moment
    of the
    of a meal whether
    or special little something.

    Sometimes it is making a
    meaningful moment
    from nothing at hand
    bringing together foods
    like gathering friends
    at the table that
    blend as well
    as the foods upon it.

    Sometimes it is creating
    a new variation
    from an old recipe
    like looking

    at an old photo
    with young eyes or
    redesigning a room
    for different needs.

    It is all about creating
    a something to be

    and it’s about the cooking of it. Arlene S. Bice ©

  13. I like it very much, Arlene!

  14. Arlene Bice – Thank you for the poem. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  15. Casey Cavasher says:

    Thank you for the suggestions on the lovely presentation of the bird. I’m using mixed salad greens with orange slices which we will also scoop onto small salad plates and enjoy rather than have a separate salad bowl. Wish in your blog on Sunday, Dec 1, you would include some photos of the two of you plus Miss Lily enjoying the feast in front of the fire…or relaxing after with an aperitif!

  16. Dolores Clifton says:

    Kevin, we do both methods, because we cook two 12-14 lb birds. Both turkeys are brined, then each roasted separately. One the day before and the second on Thanksgiving day. The first one is carved completely, then reheated in broth and placed around the second whole bird for presentation. This way, we get our Kodak moment with a beautifully browned bird and the meal is immediately ready to serve. The second bird also serves as part of the ‘left-overs’ that each of my kids like to take home each year. In the days before we needed 2 birds, we used to use a turkey shaped cookie cutter to make jellied cranberry turkeys that are presented on pineapple slices around the bird. It was very pretty. Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. will a 14 qt stock pot hold a 13 pound turkey. how to carve the turkey on the table, what kind of knife to use?

  18. Hi Rose – I brined my 13-lb turkey in a 14-qt stockpot. My “carving” knife is actually a very sharp 8-inch chef’s knife. Too difficult for me to explain my carving method, but if you check, I suspect you’ll find lots of turkey-carving videos!

  19. Counting our blessings today and giving thanks. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Lily…

  20. Thanks so much, Kevin, for your blog: your photos, your joie de vivre, your creativity, your skills. Brining is the best!!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  21. Kevin,

    Thank you for the enormous amount of time and effort you expound in preparing the food, sharing your gardens and the photos of it all. I look forward to your weekly post and have enjoyed many of your recipes and used your gardening ideas and tips. I am glad we are friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

  22. Happy Thanksgiving to you Kevin, your partner (sorry, I don’t know his name), and of course the very beautiful, and precocious Lily! Here in Memphis I made most of my side dishes last night, so today we put the 20 pounder in the oven, and now I will start on desserts ( pumpkin pie, of course, and chocolate ribbon pie). Our family has suffered many tragedies this year, but there is still much to be thankful for. Thank you for your wonderful site. I enjoy it all year long, and I get so much wonderful info from it. God bless you and yours, and Happy Holidays! Your southern fan, Dana

  23. Robin Graber says:

    I did not brine my turkey, instead I used a herb butter of tarragon, parsley, rosemary and thyme. I slathered the Tom under the skin and all over with this aromatic delight. It was delicious, along with a sausage cornbread stuffing, homemade cranberry orange relish, rolls, herbed mashed potatoes and gravy, brussel sprouts with red onion and balsamic vinegar, roasted white asparagus spears in lemon and pepper, and a lovely berry pie of strawberries, blueberries, cranberries and cherries. Happy Thanksgiving!

  24. badger gardener says:

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours was lovely and the meal a success. I did end up putting the turkey, which was picture perfect for once, on a platter w/ mixed greens, orange slices, and cranberries scattered about. It felt like such a luxury! I carved a bit for dinner and then did my savage tearing into it later for what will become many leftover meals. Any great leftover suggestions for us? So far I’m planning turkey ala king (not high cuisine but such a comfort food) and cream of turkey and wild rice soup in addition to the basic straight up leftover meal and yummy sandwiches.

    My boys and I decorated our Christmas tree today. They are finally old enough for me to add my more delicate ornaments that have been kept safely tucked away during their preschool years. Although that being said my husband and his brother infamously knocked over my mother-in-law’s tree when they were in their teens. Looking forward to your great ideas during the holiday season.

  25. Hi Kevin,
    We do the ‘Norman Rockwell’ presentation. Eveyone gathers around the table. We do a blessing, take some pictures of the bird and wisk it back to the kitchen for the carving.

  26. Marilyn Elliott says:

    Not related to turkey presentation, but thought I should let you know that I shared your Spicy Plum Cake recipe with a cousin in Oklahoma and she loved it, too! Her husband said, and I quote: “That’s the best cake I’ve ever eaten!” She is now eager to share it with her children but alas, no plums in grocery stores this time of year so it will have to wait till next summer. Thanks again for a great and delicious and different recipe, Kevin.

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