Thanksgiving. It’s here. You are likely in the kitchen, already prepping your meal. Folks may even be over, you may have a kitchen full of family, toddlers underfoot, men wanting sandwiches before the bird has even been carved.
But there are still holidays to prepare for, and turkey is one of those things that is always on the menu.
You want to do it right…turkey’s aren’t cheap.
So…I’ve compiled a list of things that will keep your bird roasting experience calm and collected. I cannot, however, keep those pesky relatives out of your kitchen. That’s all you.
Tip and Tricks for the Perfect Turkey
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.
High 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. Just stop cooking when a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 160F, the recommended USDA temperature for safe eating. 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.
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 rid 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!