In the Kitchen: How to Cook the Perfect Turkey

This article was printed in 2010, but still rings true for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

 

14 Tips to Cook the Perfect Turkey

    • First things first: thaw your bird completely before putting it in the oven. Thaw it in the fridge for a few days – up to four, depending on the size of your turkey.

 

    • 400°F is the perfect temperature for cooking a whole bird. You’ll get crispy skin without compromising tenderness.

 

    • Depending on the size of your bird, it should take anywhere from 3-6 hours to roast at 400°F. I highly recommend a meat thermometer, one that stays in the turkey while it cooks and lets you set an alarm for when it reaches the proper temperature. This keeps you from continually opening the oven door, which will greatly increase your cooking time. Here’s a great time chart for turkey roasting.
    • Basting the bird won’t give you crispier skin. In fact, you’ll get limp, soggy skin and it only marginally affects the flavor.
    • Some argue that rubbing the entire bird with fat, inside and out, doesn’t affect the flavor, but I disagree. It depends on the fat, though – olive oil won’t give you a flavor boost, but butter mixed with a heaping dose of salt and herbs will yield a tasty dish indeed.
    • It doesn’t matter what orientation you roast your turkey in. Breast up, breast down, flipped over halfway through or hanging from the rafters – no position will make the breast more moist.
    • Stuffing some flavored fat (such as butter with salt and herbs) under the skin will help flavor meat, but don’t go overboard. Too much fat will just just make the meat greasy.
    • They (whoever “they” are) say that you’re supposed to cook a whole turkey to 180°F, but I find that 170° yields a perfectly moist bird that’s still cooked completely through. Make sure to measure in the thickest part of the breast.
    • I don’t recommend stuffing your turkey before roasting, and this can lead to all sorts of holiday misery – namely salmonella. If you insist on stuffing the bird, make sure you roast it until the stuffing has an internal temperature of at least 165°F.
    • Let your bird rest for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven. A good 20 minute nap will let everything settle and keep the moisture where it belongs: in the meat.
    • The easiest way to guarantee that pieces of breast will be moist is to let them soak in the bird’s juices for a few minutes after they’ve been cut. This includes the fatty runoff from what you’ve rubbed over the surface or stuffed under the skin.
    • You want the entire thing to roast evenly and have crispy skin all over, so consider elevating it off the surface of the roasting pan. A good-sized roasting rack will do the trick, which allows air to circulate under the bird – crisping it all the way around.
  • Don’t waste the juices in the bottom of the pan! Reduce in a saucepan with a little white wine, add a little cornstarch and you’ve got an amazing gravy.
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Published in: on November 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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