Carry Out received a mixed response from contemporary music critics, with many being divided on the song's composition and lyrical content. Carry Out's lyrics use the term 'carry out' as metaphor for sex. Most found the song to be one of the album's best tracks, but criticized the use of food-sex metaphors and deemed the song to be lacking in creativity. The song also received comparisons to The Lonely Island's 2006 single Dick in a Box, in which Timberlake was featured. "Carry Out" reached the top ten on the singles charts in Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The song's accompanying music video, directed by Bryan Barber, features Timbaland and Timberlake surrounded by women, which they attempt to seduce while dressed in fast-food restaurant themed costumes.
Justin Timberlake came up with the lyrics to "Carry Out" after listening to the track Timbaland had already produced.
"Carry Out" is one of twelve songs written and produced by Timbaland and J-Roc for Timbaland's third studio album Shock Value II (2009).Justin Timberlake, Attitude and Jim Beanz, notable collaborators with Timbaland, also assisted in the writing of the song. Timbaland, in an interview with MTV's Shaheem Reed and Gil Kaufman, stated that he favored this song over other recordings because the process for creating the song was similar to those of other collaborations they have done. Timberlake would come in to the studio and listen to the track. Afterwards, he would then compose the lyrics in his head. Upon explaining their method of making music, Timbaland stated that: "We got a chemistry that cannot be described. People ask, 'Well, what are you and Justin like?' Can't tell you what it's like — it's a chemistry that can't be described. Something you would have to see for yourself and be, like, 'Them two got magic'." Timbaland stated that that the song resembles a "2010 version" of Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot", produced by The Neptunes. He also revealed that the intention of the song was to provide a different slang for women: "Instead of 'Your phat butt' or 'Your big breasts,' we say, 'Oh, I need you. Can I be your carry out? Be my carry out. I want you to be my dinner, my leftovers, my everything.' It's a different slang. We're grown men, I wanna be subliminal to females. Like, 'Oooh, carry out? That's kinda sexy'."
Recording and mix engineer Demacio "Demo" Castellon, notable for recording and mixing nearly all of Timbaland's second studio album Shock Value (2007), worked with Chris Godbey on recording the track, while providing additional recording for The Demolition Crew and mixing the song; all of this took place at No Excuses Studios in Santa Monica, California. Chris Kasych and Brian Morton were signed as assistant mix engineers for the song while Beanz, in addition to writing the song, contributed additional vocals and vocal production. Musician and songwriter Mike Hartnett performed on the guitars.
"Carry Out" is a song, with a length of 3 minutes and 52 seconds (3:52). It contains an electro-funk backing beat. The song moves through a Middle Eastern inspired groove and is built over a "pinging" syncopated beat. Timbaland performs the song in a spoken and sung style, while Timberlake performs his verses with a "seductive" lower register coupled with his falsetto vocals. The song contains many metaphors using food in place of sex. According to the digital music sheet published at Musicnotes.com by Alfred Publishing Co., Inc., the song was written in a key of E minor. Riding a moderate hip hop groove, it is set in common time with a beat rate of 110 beats per minute. Timbaland and Timberlake's vocals range from the high note of B3 to the low note of D5.
"Carry Out" received a generally mixed response from music critics. Ben Norman of About.com praised it as a "fantastic fast food euphamism" and as an example of Timbaland's ability to craft "top-notch pop". Calling it a "radio smash", Luke Gibson of HipHop DX in his review of the single commented on the noticeable chemistry between Timbaland and Timberlake and deemed it will "have bodies moving". Gibson concluded, writing, "The song itself captures what’s wrong or maybe right with the entire project." Jason Lipshutz of Billboard remarked that "Carry Out" competes with "Morning After Dark" to "burn up dancefloors". In his review of the album, David Balls of Digital Spy called "Carry Out" and "Meet in Tha Middle", "pretty irresistible". David E. Gray of Yahoo! Voices said that the song "shows how much Timberlake can add to a track when he's in his element." August Brown of Los Angeles Times commented that album fares better with the collaborations with artists Timbaland has worked with previously, saying that Timberlake has a "goofy good time" on "Carry Out".
Will Hines of Consequence of Sound found the lyrical focus on the food metaphor for sex as "unerotic" and commented that Timberlake sounds "a little less invincible" on the track. Henry Yanney of Soul Culture labeled it a safe collaboration, noting it as a revival of Timbaland and Timberlake's "successful chemistry". Robert Copsey, in the review of the single itself, found the recording to be lacking in creativity, leaving him to comment that "'Carry Out' is one of Timbaland's least shocking efforts to date". Jon Parales of New York Times said the song and "Morning After Dark" were less effective than the collaboration by Timberlake and Nelly Furtado on "Give It to Me" (Shock Value, 2007) and called the food-to-sex metaphor "unamusing".
Andy Kellman of Allmusic called "Carry Out" the dirtiest track on the album and noted that the two artist aim for a contemporary form of The Lonely Island's "Dick in a Box" (Incredibad, 2009), on which Timberlake was featured. Brian Linder of IGN commented that the production on the song is tight, but panned the single for its food-sex metaphors, calling it "unforgivably stupid" and " such a joke that we half expected Andy Samberg to show up with his dick in a happy meal box," making reference to "Dick in a Box", which premiered on Saturday Night Live in 2006. Jesse Cataldo of Slant Magazine called the collaboration and "Say Something" "admirable turns" on the album, but comments that they are "forced to operate with unenviably tepid production." Cataldo concludes, writing, "The overall laziness of that facet is even more inexcusable coming from one of the most renowned producers of the last decade." Hugh Montgomery of The Observer noted it as one of the album's best track but called it "merely passable" and said it was " weighed down by his own leaden rapping and with nothing new to add to the familiar, futurist R&B formula."
In the United States, the song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number seventy five on December 19, 2009. It rose to number eleven on the chart more than two months later on March 27, 2010. The song also appeared on the Pop Songs and Radio Songs charts, where it peaked at number eight and number ten respectively. The song spent twenty-six weeks on the Hot 100. In Canada, the song debuted on the Canadian Hot 100 at number thirty-six, being the week's second highest debut behind Jason Derülo's "In My Head". It fell to number seventy-six in the following week. The song eventually reached a peak of number seven and charted for three months more.
The song experienced similar success in international territories. The track debuted at number thirty-nine on the New Zealand Top 40 chart on March 22, 2010. It reached a peak at number fifteen in it fifth week on the chart. "Carry Out" peaked at number three on the Irish Singles Chart and stayed on the position for week. In the United Kingdom, the song entered at number ninety-seven on the UK Singles Chart and rose sixty-eight places to twenty-nine in the following week. It peaked at number six two weeks later and lasted inside the top ten for almost a month afterwards. "Carry Out" experienced a quick chart run in the Netherlands, where it debuted at number 39 and rose to its peak at number 19 two weeks later. It ultimately lasted a total of seven weeks on the chart. The song was not successful in Austria and Switzerland, where it peaked at number 57 and 80 respectively, lasting only one to two weeks within the charts.
Two music videos for "Carry Out" were shot. The first video, shot in December 2009, consisted of live performance footage of Timbaland and Timberlake. The video was due to be released in January 2010. In late January 2010, it was announced that a new video is going to be shot with director Bryan Barber. The video made its premiere on February 18, 2010. The video begins with sequences of several women dancing in underwear in front of light sing saying "Drive In" and "Hot Cakes". Scenes of Timbaland and Timberlake in front of the signs are also shown. Scenes are intercut showing Timbaland and his brother in a car watching girls skating around it. During the chorus the performers are dancing in front of the sings along girl dancers. Scenes are intercut and show separate scenes of Timbaland and Timberlake sitting on a throne chairs while girls with plates full of food are around them. The video ends with several girls seductively eating cakes.