Monday, December 26, 2011

Making Turkey - A Holiday Treat

If you're wondering how to make turkey, the answer is simpler than you think. Thanksgiving can be spoiled by a dry and overcooked turkey and made infinitely better by a perfect, juicy turkey cooked with love to a golden brown perfection.

Correctly thaw the turkey

In all likelihood, the turkey you now have was bought frozen at the local grocers a few days or even weeks before it was going to be cooked and stored. The correct way to thaw or defrost a turkey is to place it in the refrigerator. This method prevents the growth of bacteria that can occur with other ways to thaw including the now popular microwave oven method or leaving the turkey under running water. Approximate thawing times (these will differ depending on the settings of a refrigerator (colder settings will cause the turkey to take a longer time to thaw etc.)
  • 08 - 12 lb turkey: 2 - 3 days
  • 13 - 16 lb turkey: 3 - 4 days
  • 17 - 20 lb turkey: 4 - 5 days
  • 21 - 24 lb turkey: 5 - 6 days
The weight of the turkey can be found on the packaging. If it is fresh game turkey, use a scale to determine the weight. Place the turkey in a dish large enough to collect the water as it defrosts. Check it frequently and pour the water down the drain to prevent messy spills in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven

Once the turkey is thawed and it is time to cook, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Remove the giblets

Reach into the turkey and take out the giblet bag containing the neck and innards. (New chefs please note that this must be removed, it is not stuffing.)

Melt some butter

On the stove or in the microwave, melt 1 tbsp of butter

Butter the turkey breast

Turn the turkey so it the breast is facing upward and very gently so as not to tear it, separate the skin from the meat of the turkey breast. Rub the melted butter on the breast meat. So not put butter directly onto the outside skin of the turkey.

Season the turkey

If you want to, place a small amount of rosemary and thyme in between the skin and the breast. Then lightly coat the outside skin with salt and pepper.

Place the turkey in the oven

Put the turkey in a covered roasting pan that is large enough to be sealed completely when the turkey is in it and place it into the oven at 475 degrees for 20 minutes.

Reduce the heat

Turn the oven temperature down to 250 degrees F to allow the turkey to slow cook.

Cook until done

They turkey will need to be cooked for 20 minutes per pound after the heat is reduced. Use an electronic meat thermometer to check the temperature when it should be finished. A turkey is cooked properly when the thermometer registers 170 degrees when inserted into the breast meat and 180 degrees F in the thigh meat.

Tips and warnings

  • When checking the temperature, try to stay away from the bones as these will be hotter than the meat and may make you think the turkey is finished when it isn't.
For more information on preparing turkey, read Tips for Frying Turkey and How to Bake Turkey.