Monday, November 23, 2009
Tips for a delicious Thanksgiving turkey
I love a tasty turkey and have tried several recipes in the past trying to get it just right. What I have learned is that there are several recipes with flavor I like, but it is the cooking method that makes the difference to me. Here are some tips that help make for a yummy turkey:
- When preparing the bird, rinse it well with clean water. If you have a large enough container to brine it, use a simple salt water brine or add some honey, garlic, and fresh thyme to make a honey brine. I have personally never brined a turkey, simply due to lack of space, but I do brine chickens before roasting them and it adds a lot to the flavor.
- Before roasting the turkey, whip up some soft butter with herbs in it. Use whatever herbs your taste buds prefer, but here are some that go well with turkey and work well together: sage, parsley, rosemary and thyme. Be sure to add in black pepper and some salt as well. Slip your hand between the skin and the turkey breast, separating the skin from the meat on the breasts and the drumsticks. Using a small spatula, or your hand, spread the butter mixture all over the meat, but under the skin. Spread some on the mixture inside the cavity of the bird as well and use the rest on the outside of the skin. Some people also stuff the cavity with lemons or onions and celery. I do sometimes, but have not noticed a huge difference in taste.
- You can truss the bird if you choose. Again, I never have, but I do bend the wings up underneath the turkey to prevent them from overcooking. Then, transfer the bird to a roasting pan. If you do not have a rack to sit the bird in, make several crumbled balls of foil and set the bird on those. This helps keep the bottom of the turkey from getting soggy.
- I have tried roasting my turkey several ways, but the juiciest turkey came from cooking it like this: Start in an oven that is preheated to 425 degrees. DO NOT cover the turkey. This goes against what many do, but I find that cooking it at a higher temperature to start, gives it a crisper skin and the turkey is more moist, kind of like searing a roast before cooking it. Once, the skin is nice and dark (about 30-45 minutes), take the turkey out and cover it with foil. Reduce the oven temperature and cook at 275 degrees until done. A good rule of thumb for this temperature is 10 minutes per pound.
- Remove the turkey from the oven when it reaches 170 degrees. You do not want it to be less than 165, for food safety reasons, or much higher than 170, because it will continue to cook after it is removed and you will risk overcooking it. When checking the temperature, be sure to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and make sure it is not touching the bone.
- Keep the turkey covered and let it rest for about 20 minutes. This allows the juices to distribute themselves evenly throughout the bird.
I hope you enjoy your turkey and I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving. I will share some ideas for turkey leftovers in a few days.