How To: The Perfect Turkey

My Mom never taught me how to make a turkey. Did yours?

Despite the fact that every year in my existence she’s made turkey for Thanksgiving, I was never shown how.  Maybe I never asked, maybe I never cared, maybe she was so busy prepping a meal for 50 that showing a child the tricks to delivering a tasty bird seemed irrelevant.  I don’t blame her.

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But you know, the turkey only seems daunting.  Other than taking a good while to cook, it’s really not complicated.

Jon is the turkey man in our house, and it’s a job he enjoys.  I’m stoked about it, too, as I like to eat it and not have to make it.  So, while he makes this delectable bird, I took note to clue you in on the little tips and tricks to make the Thanksgiving Turkey a little less scary for you.  I’m even going to be involved in it this year myself…brine and rub and baking an cutting.  Eek.

Wait!  Let’s don’t be frightened.  You can do it.  I know you canYou can make the perfect turkey.  WE can make the PERFECT TURKEY.

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Allow enough time to thaw that frozen bird.  A turkey is a monster, and man is it ever frozen.  Hopefully you bought yours several days before the big event, and if so, you’re pretty set.  The average 15 pound turkey will thaw in the fridge in about 4 days.  Yes, DAYS.  Once thawed, it’s fine to leave it in there for 4 more.  However, maybe you waited until the day before to buy yours, waiting for the best sale. (Hint, don’t ever do this, as every store in the tri-state area will run out, and you’ll be forced to call all of your friends to see if maybe they bought an extra, or are willing to sell you theirs, not that I know from experience or anything.)  But back to the point – you CAN thaw a frozen turkey in the sink, covered in water.  It will take roughly 30 minutes per pound, so a 15 pounder will take about 8 hours. Allow for longer, though, just in case.

Prep for success.  Find a recipe you like, or not, it really isn’t rocket science.  It’s meat.  Some people opt for a brine, some people opt to inject the bird with butter, oils, honey or spice, some opt to just mix some butter with a few tasty herbs and rub it under the turkey skin.  The latter is what we typically do.  If this is your first time ever seeing a naked turkey, be warned.  They put leftover bird parts inside the turkey.  Like the neck.  Take those God-awful things out.  Throw them away of you want, or, you can make stock or gravy with them.  So sue me, I throw it all away.  It looks nasty and therefore in my mind, no matter what, it’s gonna taste nasty.  Don’t let my issues be YOUR issues.  I hear that neck makes a great turkey stock.

imageHigh heat to start.  The biggest issue most folks have with a turkey is that the white meat dries out.  This is because the dark meat takes longer to reach temp, or because the juices drain out.  One way to combat this is to crank the heat up at the start of the cooking process.  We cook ours at 450 for 45 minutes, to thoroughly brown the skin and seal in those juices.  Then we back the temp down to 325 for the duration, about 2 1/2 more hours for a 15 pound turkey.  The turkey is ready when the thigh reads 160F, the recommended USDA temperature for safe eating.  This is apparent once your Pop Up has “popped”, and the thigh meat will have reached the minimum safe temperature.  The breast portion will most certainly be done at that point.  If you notice that part way through baking that the top of the turkey is looking a little more brown than you would like, it’s best to tent it with aluminum foil.  This will prevent it from over cooking.

Want to make it even easier on yourself?  Using a Pop Up® Disposable Cooking Thermometer makes cooking your Thanksgiving turkey easier than ever!  Use a 180° Pop Up® Disposable Cooking Thermometer to check that meat has reached an internal temperature of at least 180° Fahrenheit. The red portion of the sensor will pop up when this happens. I’m sure you’ve seen it in your local grocery store – many brand name turkeys come with the Pop Up already inserted.  Never guess again, as you’ll know your dinner is safe and ready! (I’ve included more info about the Pop Up Thermometer below.  Check it out!)

Baste.  Baste the turkey with its juices about once every twenty minutes to half an hour hour.  Don’t overdo it.  Yes, I know it smells good and seems impressive, but twice (to 3 times) an hour is enough.

The juices.  Yes, they are divine.  Make them into gravy, save them for stock.  Just don’t get ride of them!  You can prepare a wonderful soup on the Saturday after the holiday with this liquid gold!

REST.  Once your turkey has reached the appropriate 160F temp, do NOT CUT INTO IT.  Wait.  Let those juices redistribute for 20 minutes.  Besides, it’s HOT.  Just wait, the difference will be worth it!

Now, go buy your turkey. Make plans.  You can do it!

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About the Pop Up Disposable Cooking Thermometer

o This product allows you to easily cook turkeys more quickly by eliminating the need to open the oven door. Heat is retained for faster, more even cooking. Simply begin checking for the Pop Up®’s activation 30 minutes before your estimated done time.

o Cooking time is merely a guideline. Internal temperature is the only sure-fire way to know if meat is cooked properly. Take the guesswork out and buy products with the Pop Up®!

o Because the Pop Up® is within +/- 2 degrees of accuracy, it offers consistent results and meat and poultry won’t dry out. Traditional and digital thermometers are only within 5 degrees of accuracy.

o The Pop Up® should be located in the thickest part of the breast and completely inserted to be flush with the skin. If your Pop Up® is in the wrong spot, simply remove and reinsert.

o Pop Up® Disposable Cooking Thermometers are available with your favorite turkey brands at grocery stores and butchers nationwide.

o Make sure to look for the registered Pop Up name to ensure that you are getting the accuracy of the Pop Up® Disposable Cooking Thermometer from Volk Enterprises.

Need some turkey prep videos?  Here are a couple!

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Disclaimer:  This post was sponsored by Volk Enterprises.  All thoughts and opinions were my own.