Tryptofantastic turkey times make the holiday celebration go round. With the holiday countdown on, the Thanksgiving turkey talk centers around how to defrost and how to cook a turkey. Being prepared for the gather round the table holiday celebration with a bird done to absolute golden perfection is the Thanksgiving holiday way to go.
Well then, let’s get the how to cook a turkey conversation started. You may want to copy and paste or at the very least hit the bookmark icon- there’s some good information here.
Rules of Thawing:
Last minute does not work well in the grand scheme of turkey thawing. Since the majority of supermarket turkeys are sold frozen, prepare to thaw. Figure 1 to 1½ pounds of turkey per person when purchasing the bird.
As tempting as it may be to leave the bird out on the counter to expedite the thawing process, don’t. Why invite a problem to the party? You don’t need or want the hassle of food poisoning.
For Refrigerator Thawing:
Place turkey on a tray to eliminate leakage to other areas of refrigerator. Thaw breast side up, in original unopened wrapper on a tray in the fridge (40 degrees F or below). Allow at least 1 day of thawing for every 4-5 lbs.
Suggested thawing time for a frozen turkey:
4 to 12 pound turkey: 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pound turkey: 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pound turkey: 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pound turkey: 5 to 6 days
Cold Water Thawing:
Thaw breast side down, in original unopened wrapper. Cover the turkey completely with cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per lb.
4 to 12 pound turkey: 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pound turkey: 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pound turkey: 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pound turkey: 10 to 12 hours
Now, let’s say Thanksgiving Day comes and you’ve followed the above rule, but the turkey did not cooperate and the bird is still frozen. Then the bird needs a soak. Place the uncooperative turkey in a kitchen sink filled with cold water. Soak the bird 30 minutes per pound to thaw; changing water every 30 minutes.
Remember to practice safe turkey prep & handling. Clean and sanitize all the surfaces and utensils that come into contact with the uncooked bird and its juices.
Don’t forget to wash those turkey covered hands thoroughly with soap and warm water!
Prepping the Bird:
Remove any contents from the turkey cavity. Remove the clamp from around the legs. Remove the extra skin from the neck area. Tuck the wings up under the turkey bottom to prevent burning.
If you plan on stuffing the turkey, now is the time to do so. The ingredients you will be stuffing the turkey with can be prepared ahead of time. It is advised by the USDA to keep the wet and dry ingredients separate. Keep wet ingredients refrigerated until time to use. Do not mix the wet and dry ingredients until time to fill the turkey cavities, filling loosely. Immediately cook the turkey.
Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 170 °F.
Rub butter, margarine, or oil of your choice under the skin of the breast area, over the legs, and the turkey undercarriage to promote browning.
Place turkey breast side up on rack in your roasting pan and secure legs with kitchen twine.
Seasoning the Bird:
Rub turkey with seasonings of your choice of seasonings such as salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, rosemary, or Creole seasoning.
I usually add a stalk of celery cut into three equal parts and ½ peeled and sliced onion or 2-3 cut green onions.
Add 1 ½-2 cups of chicken broth or white wine to roasting pan to keep the turkey moist during baking. Cover with roasting pan lid or a foil tent for first 1-1½ of roasting.
Roasting the Bird:
Roast the turkey at 325 °F using the chart below as a guide for approximate roasting times. The turkey and the stuffing is done when the internal temperature reaches an internal temperature of 170 °F. Make sure to also check the stuffing for an internal temperature of 170 °F. Use a food thermometer to check the turkey in the thickest part of the breast. The internal temperature should reach 170 °F for safety.
Resource: USDA Food Preparation and Inspection Service
I do not baste our turkey. I find opening the oven door frequently allows the oven temp to swing and adds more time to the roasting. Sufficient prep and seasoning will keep the turkey moist. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving for easier carving.
To Baste Or Not To Baste:
Nobody Loves Dry Turkey:
Turkey breast dries out easy due to the fact lean breast meat cooks quicker than the legs and thighs. Here’s several suggestions to eliminate this issue:
You can separate the breast from the whole turkey and cook the bone-in breast separately.
My personal favorite way to combat dry turkey is to simply roast a turkey breast.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Dry the skin of the turkey breast by patting with a paper towel. Give the outer skin of the turkey a generous rub down with butter. Season the turkey breast with salt and pepper or Creole seasoning. Rub the seasonings into the skin of the turkey breast.
Place turkey breast, breast-side up, into the roasting pan. Roast the turkey breast at 325 degrees for 2 to 2 ½ hours or until thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast reads 170 degrees F.
In a spray bottle combine 1 quart (4 cups) warm water, 1 teaspoon liquid soap, 1 teaspoon borax and ¼ cup undiluted white vinegar. You can also add 1 tsp. of essential oil such as rose, lemon, orange, or lavender. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and cleaner however, I don’t suggest using this on granite or marble countertops.
Carving the Bird:
Place the bird on a carving board or reliable surface for carving, breast side up with the legs facing away from you. Position the carving fork in the lower part of the breast to hold the turkey steady as you carve.
Find the hip joint connecting the thigh and the breast and begin slicing through. Repeat on the opposite side.
Separate the drumstick from the thigh by cutting through the joint.
Let’s move on to the drumstick/ turkey leg. Pull each leg to extend them away from the body and slice between the breast and the drumstick.
Move the leg backward to loosen it away from the socket, cut away from skin and remove. Repeat on the opposite side.
Now we’re winging it! Locate the joint connecting the wing to the body and slice on through. Repeat on the opposite side.
For the breast, begin by slicing as close to the breastbone as possible. Slice all the way down as to have one large piece and repeat on the opposite side.
Place breast on cutting surface and slice from smallest end to the largest.
Arrange and plate as you like.