Our Food Editor/Executive Chef Rebecca shares with you some advice on making the perfect turkey.
- To choose your perfect turkey, plan on about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. Add about 2 pounds for bone weight, and you have the size you will need to feed your family. Remember that a frozen turkey can take days to thaw in the refrigerator. Place your frozen turkey in a disposable roasting pan (to catch any drippings) and refrigerate. A 15-pound turkey can take up to four days to completely thaw and can stay refrigerated once thawed for about two days.
- Remove giblets and neck from turkey, and rinse inside and out with cool water; pat dry with paper towels. If you are deep frying your turkey, this step is imperative. Any drops of water left on the turkey will spatter when lowering the turkey into the hot oil and you could very easily get burned.
- Stir together softened butter or olive oil with chopped fresh herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Loosen skin from breast of turkey, by gently inserting your fingertips in between the skin and meat of the breast. Work your fingers in slowly to prevent tearing the skin. Rub butter mixture under skin and over entire turkey. Getting the butter and herb mixture under the skin helps the flavors to penetrate the meat. The butter on the outside of the turkey will help ensure a crispy and evenly browned turkey.
- Cook your stuffing or dressing in a separate baking dish as opposed to stuffing the bird. In order to get the stuffing to a safe temperature, where all bacteria is killed, you run the risk of overcooking the turkey and having the white meat be very dry. Instead, fill the cavity with halved onions, peeled garlic cloves, chopped celery, and fresh herbs, or even a sliced lemon or orange. This will help flavor the bird from the inside out. Don’t forget to truss your turkey legs for a beautiful presentation!
- Place your turkey on a rack inside a roasting pan. This helps air to circulate around the turkey to ensure more even cooking and crisp skin. Then you can use the flavorful drippings to make gravy.
- Having a reliable meat thermometer is very important. The pop-up timers that sometimes come with the turkey are not very reliable, and should be used as second method of determining doneness, or even removed completely. A digital meat thermometer is your best option because of the speed of determining the turkey’s temperature. It eliminates having the oven door open for too long letting precious hot air escape, while you are waiting for the thermometer. Insert the thermometer in the thickest portion of the thigh, being sure to avoid contact with any bones. When the thermometer registers 165°, your turkey is ready to be removed from the oven. Cover lightly with foil (not too tightly or the turkey will steam under the foil), and let stand for 20 minutes before carving. The internal temperature of the bird should increase by at least 10 degrees, and letting it stand will allow time for all the juices to redistribute. A 15 pound turkey usually takes between 3 and 4 hours to cook. A good starting point is baking your turkey at 325°, covered with foil, for 2 1/2 hours. Uncover, and bake an additional 30 to 60 minutes or until the thermometer registers 165°.
Now here is one of our favorites from our magazine and some from our sister publications:
Bacon-And-Herb Crusted Turkey, Entertain Decorate Celebrate
Classic Fried Turkey from Taste of the South magazine
Molasses Glazed Turkey Breast – Southern Lady Magazine
Savory Herb-Baked Turkey – Christmas at Home