It’s that time of year. The pressure is on for the cook of the family. HOW will you impress your Thanksgiving guest with your culinary downhome cookin’ this year? HOW will you cook the turkey?
The issue that most cooks face is that turkey isn’t something they tend to cook on a regular basis, instead, it’s often a once a year event. This can put a bit of anxiety into the event in the kitchen!
Were you lucky enough to raise your own meat for the Thanksgiving table? If so, you’re doin’ great. You’ve probably got the most flavorful turkey around because you raised it and you know exactly what that turkey ate.
Your second most flavorful choice in turkey would be a farm-raised bird. And of course everyone else will get their turkey from the frozen section at the grocery store.
So how do you get a juicy flavorful turkey every time? First you have to thaw it. Most commercial turkeys have instructions for defrosting which is typically about a day in the fridge for every five pounds of bird. You’ve all seen someone the evening before or the morning of trying to defrost the turkey in the kitchen sink. This just doesn’t work. Follow the instructions for a safe thaw.
The temperature you cook the turkey at will make a world of difference. Overcooking causes the white meat to become dry (as there’s less fat there). Most roasting should be done between 300-350 F. Most often the turkey is placed in a roasting pan, breast side up and roasted, perhaps with some foil over the top in an attempt to keep the breasts from drying out.
Did you know that if you cook it with the breast side DOWN that you’ll naturally get a moister white meat?
Turkey is safe to eat when the internal temperature reaches 165 but if you let the bird cook to a slightly higher internal temperature, (175-180) you’ll get a deeper flavor. Unless you have a turkey with a pop-up ready indicator you’ll want to test the temperature with a probe thermometer (one meant for meat) at the thickest part of the bird. Just be sure you don’t touch bone as this can skew the results.
You don’t have to roast in the oven. You can use a stand alone roaster (ever popular), cook it on the grill, a deep fryer (but be careful) or smoke it in a smoker.
(Turkey fryers account for many a fire on Thanksgiving day, often caused by overfilling the cooker. The damp turkey into a too-full HOT oil will/can spill over and catch on fire quickly. Many a deck has been lost this way.)
No matter your preferred method of cooking your Thanksgiving bird just be sure to thaw, cook to a proper internal temperature, and be proud of your cooked turkey. There’s a reason we put the turkey in the center of the table. We’re proud of our accomplishment!