Don’t let the size fool you. Turkey is like chicken, just bigger. To take away the insecurities of cooking a turkey for the first time in your life, here is how you can cook it, step by step:
If you don’t want any leftovers, the rule of thumb when purchasing a turkey is 1 lb. per person (if you are planning on feeding 12 people you should purchase a 12 lb turkey). If you are feeding more people and you want extra food for the next day, then bake two smaller turkeys, this will help you cut down the cooking time compared to cooking one extra-large one.
Preordering a Turkey
If you order a turkey, do it in advance. Ask them how many people it will serve. It’s better to have a bit extra for those who may pop up out of the blue.
Did you know that a frozen turkey takes up to 4 days to defrost? Yep! So, make space in your refrigerator and let it defrost. Add an extra day if you’re seasoning the bird. If you forget to defrost your turkey, it’s okay. Use a container with cold water and ensure that is big enough to hold the turkey and the water. Keep in mind that you need a timer to change the water every 30 minutes. To help you calculate how long will it take to defrost, for every pound you will need a half hour.
It’s not so much if the turkey fits in the pan, the issue is if it fits in the oven. Many go through this dilemma every year. Therefore, keep in mind the measurements. If not, there is always the rotisserie or the frying methods.
Pat it dry
Do you want your turkey to have crispy skin? It can happen by drying off the excess water on the turkey, inside and out. Do this before you season the bird.
In comparison to a chicken, turkeys are not that flavorful. It’s very important to season it well. There are many techniques to give flavor like brining, injection, or rubbing it with seasonings. Remember that most frozen turkeys come with some butter injection, so make sure not to overdo it. Don’t forget to season it inside and out.
Stuff The Turkey? Nah!
In recent studies, experts in the kitchen recommend not to put stuffing in your turkey. It not only dries out the bird, but it can also take longer to cook and even cause food poisoning. Please, stuffing is excellent, but keep it out of the bird.
Trussing Wings and Legs
Many prefer to tie the wings and legs of the bird before cooking. If you do, you don’t want to tie it too tight. Otherwise, the dark meat will take longer to cook, and the white meat will overcook.
Are You Cooking Turkey Outdoors?
Many may consider having Thanksgiving in your outdoor living area. So, if you’re using a gas grill, preheat it at 450°F, and brown the turkey for 30 minutes to one hour. Then lower the temperature to 350°F to 325°F. It will take 15 minutes per pound to cook. If you cook it on a charcoal grill, you will need a drip tray, and don’t forget to lower or increase the temperature. If you’re looking for that smoky flavor, you have to add some wood chips to the fire. Remember that with charcoal, you have to preheat for at least 45 minutes before you place the turkey on the tray.
Real basting is done halfway through cooking, with just the fat, not the liquid drippings. Do the basting every 30 to 45 minutes.
Frozen turkeys come with a pop-up thermometer that indicates when the turkey is ready. NOT REALLY! Pull it out and use an actual thermometer instead. Real thermometers are much better and more precise. Place the probe at the thickest part of the turkey (between the thigh and the breast).
Don’t cook past 165°F!
Here is the situation. The breast and dark meats are ready at two different temperatures (breast – 155°F / dark meat – 165°F). Neither is prepared to serve nor to carve. So, what you need to do is go to step #13
The turkey needs to rest like the perfect steak. It is fabulous! Now you have the oven to heat side dishes and prepare the gravy. You need to cover the turkey with aluminum foil paper or with the roasting cover. And, yes, the turkey keeps cooking for another 15 minutes to an hour to come to the right temperature and ready to carve.