How to Cook a Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
by Conor Rath
With the holiday season approaching quickly once again, it’s a good idea to start thinking about meal preparation. Maybe you have a large group of extended family coming to celebrate, or maybe you’ll spend the holidays with a select few friends. Either way, a well-prepared holiday feast is an important part of the holiday spirit. If you’re looking to prepare a turkey this Thanksgiving, here are some tips to ensure the bird comes out juicy and delicious.
First and foremost, make sure your turkey is completely thawed before moving on to other steps. The time it takes to thaw your turkey will depend on size -- generally, allow 24 hours of thawing time for each group of four to five pounds of turkey (thus, larger birds may take a few days to thaw completely). If you’re short on time, you can always submerge your turkey, breast side down, in a sink full of cool water. This will help it to thaw more quickly.
Some people like to brine their turkey. Brining is usually done the day before the turkey is to be roasted. Instructions for brining can be found at marthastewart.com, or a myriad of other cooking sites online. Additionally, for added flavor and juiciness, it is suggested to rub herbs and butter between the skin and the meat of the turkey. Either of these steps are completely up to you, depending on your own taste.
After brining and/or rubbing your turkey with herbed butter, the bird is ready to be stuffed. Stuffing should be cooked beforehand, and then spooned into the body cavity. After stuffing your turkey, pull the neck skin down over the cavity, and pin it closed with a skewer. Several recipes for stuffing can be found online -- keep your taste and the tastes of your holiday guests in mind when choosing a recipe. You may also consider leaving your turkey unstuffed and preparing stuffing separately. This helps keep the bird moist, especially in the breast.
For proper roasting, your oven should be preheated to 450 degrees. Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan, and in the oven on the middle rack (remove any additional racks as necessary to make room for the bird). Roast your turkey at 450 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Then, take the bird out of the oven, and turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Place an aluminum foil “tent” over your turkey, and place it back in the oven. As with thawing, roasting time depends on the size of your turkey. Allow for fifteen minutes of cooking time per pound for a stuffed bird. If you have elected not to stuff your turkey, cooking time drops to 13 minutes per pound. Make sure to check the temperature of your bird regularly. A turkey is fully cooked when the internal temperature of the meat reaches at least 165 degrees. Once you’ve reached this temperature, remove your turkey from the oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes. Then, carve and enjoy!
Cooking an entire holiday meal for friends and family can seem like a daunting task, with so many things to keep track of. However, the right set of instructions can make all the difference when you are faced with the hustle and bustle of the holidays.