You’ve been dreading this day for the entire month: Thanksgiving. It’s that ugly plucked turkey that mocks you every year. It comes out of the oven drier than the Sahara and the only one not slathering it in gravy to make it swallowable is the family dog. Don’t let that big bird bully you this year! We’ve got some tips to help you make your Thanksgiving turkey perfect.
After you’ve thawed your bird, remove the bag of giblets from inside the cavity, and either throw it out or cook it separately. But wait, drop that stuffing! Don’t stuff your bird before you cook it! Not only is it a health hazard, but your bird will get overcooked in your attempts to thoroughly cook the stuffing.
What you should be cooking your turkey with is herbs, spices, and other seasonings, and make sure you’re generous with them, too! You know how heavy that bird is because you had to probably lift it at some point, and a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of pepper just isn’t going to flavor such a big bird. Rub the cavity thoroughly with your seasonings, and then salt and pepper the skin.
One of the secrets to cooking a great turkey, though, is to stick seasoning between the skin on the breast and the breast meat itself. Don’t remove the skin completely, but do separate it from the breast meat to give yourself a pocket. Pick your favorite herbs and spices, mix a little cool butter in with them, and stick it under the skin.
For added juiciness, add a little less than an inch of water to the turkey pan. The turkey will “sweat” juices when it cooks, so adding more might overflow your pan! Basting your turkey as it cooks isn’t proven to improve juiciness, but it doesn’t hurt to do so if you want to.
Use the recommended cooking times that came with your bird. If you don’t have the plastic wrappings anymore, the USDA recommends you roast your turkey in an oven preheated to 325 °F. You can find a detailed chart from the USDA’s turkey page, but cooking time can range from an hour and a half to a full five hours, depending on your bird’s weight. That’s about 20 minutes per pound. You can be sure your turkey’s good to eat by using a meat thermometer; it’s done when the thickest part of the turkey, usually the breast, hits 165°F.
Secret number two to a great turkey is to let the turkey rest when you pull it out of the oven. It’s going to smell absolutely delicious and you’re going to want to dig into it to see how well you did this year, but letting meat rest is going to help it stay juicier. The amount of time you should let it rest varies on the size of your turkey, but giving it at least 20 minutes of some alone time should do the trick. Don’t touch it, don’t look at it, and don’t even think about it during its resting period.
Now that we’ve told you some of our secrets, why don’t you share some of your own secrets? Leave us a comment below with your favorite tips and tricks for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey!