Thanksgiving is almost here….turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, and pies…mmmm, mmmm! Well, since Thanksgiving is just a few days away, I thought I’d share a few tips on how to ensure your turkey can take center stage on your dinner table for Thanksgiving:
1. Buying a turkey: For frozen turkey, you’ll want to ensure the packaging is airtight and there are no rips or punctures. For fresh turkeys, make sure the skin is white, firm and plum. Also, make sure there are no discolorations in the skin or bruise spots.
2. Defrosting a turkey: To defrost your frozen turkey, calculate 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure this one out. A 20 pound turkey = 4 days of defrosting.
3. Stuffing your turkey in advance: I’m all about prepping as much as you can in advance but please don’t stuff your turkey until right before you’re going to roast it. Prepping too far in advance may promote bacteria…yuck!
4. The basting myth: Contrary to popular belief, basting does not fully penetrate the meat of the turkey to make it moist. You’re lucky if it penetrates an 1/8 inch of the meat. You’ll actually run the risk of drying out the meat by constantly opening the oven which causes the temperature to flux.
5. Different roasting times for fresh and defrosted turkeys: Fresh turkeys will cook between 5-10 minutes faster per pound than a defrosted turkey. Make sure to account for this difference in your overall roasting time.
6. To stuff or not to stuff…that is the question: It’s ok to stuff the turkey but stuffing it too densely will promote uneven roasting in the meat. Try stuffing it very loosely…or not at all…and make the stuffing on the side.
7. Keep that oven shut! As stated earlier, if you open up the oven too much you’ll affect the temperature of the oven which in turn can cause you to have a dry turkey. Exercise some patience…just about an hour before you’ve determined the turkey will be done, open the oven to check the temperature.
8. Using an oven roasting bag: My parents tried this one year when I was a kid and I tell you what…it’s rare that we ever roast a turkey without one! It’s so easy: put a little bit of flour in the bag, shake it around, put the turkey in the bag, set it in a roasting pan, cut 6 slits in the bag for ventilation and bake. No fuss and the turkey usually cooks much faster than traditional roasting.
9. Prep and protect the skin: If you’re not going to use an oven roasting bag, be sure to rub olive or vegetable oil on the skin and sprinkle with seasoning. Then tightly cover the whole turkey with foil. Remember, resist the temptation to open the oven door until about an hour before it’s done.
10. Deep frying a turkey: Unless you want to star on America’s Funniest Videos and be laughed at by millions of viewers, please don’t fry a turkey when it’s still frozen. You can start a serious fire and create a dangerous situation. For your safety and the safety of those around you please make sure your turkey is defrosted before frying.
11. Let the turkey rest before your start to carve: Once out of the oven, let the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes before you slice into it to seal in the juices. Trust me…this works for any type of meat that you cook in the oven or on the grill.
So, get that turkey ready…and your bellies too!