How To Cook The Thanksgiving Turkey
Does the very thought of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey with all the trimmings send you searching for your “fat pants”? This is one of very few days in the year when the word ‘diet’ is a dirty four-letter word. Thanksgiving is a day of feasting and the absolute star of the show is the Thanksgiving Turkey. This big bird always takes center stage on a Thanksgiving table with family and friends sit in drooling anticipation as the main dish arrives at the table.
Cooking a turkey can be complicated. Too often, diners complain of the meat being too dry. With the worry of salmonella from an undercooked bird, most people err on the side of caution and cook the bird for too long. The result is dry turkey. Sure, you can hide the dryness with cranberry sauce or gravy, but there are ways you can cook the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving that will leave you with happy guests and very little leftovers.
1. Buy Or Order Your Turkey Ahead Of Time
The closer it gets to Thanksgiving, the less likely you are going to find the perfect bird. You can buy your turkey ahead of time and freeze it, but keep in mind that this big bird will take a long time to thaw out and you must allow it to thaw completely. Some may even take a few days. Otherwise, a frozen spot in the bird will not be able to cook evenly with the rest of it. You can’t leave the turkey out in a hot kitchen for days so you will need to thaw it out in the refrigerator.
To cook the perfect turkey, it must be completely thawed out before you start cooking. If you want to cook your turkey fresh, you will need to find a supplier who takes orders and will ensure you have the right-sized waiting for you a day or two before Thanksgiving.
2. Marinate Or Brine The Turkey
Marinating the turkey will ensure all the seasonings can permeate right through the meat giving it a fantastic flavor from the first bite, to the last. Mix your favorite seasonings with cooking fat or oil and rub it all over your turkey. Add some of this mixture to the stuffing as well.
You can also brine your turkey. Place the bird in a solution of salt, brown sugar and a mildly acidic liquid like apple juice. Add enough water to completely cover the turkey and leave it in this solution for a few hours before cooking. Better yet, do this before you go to bed and let it soak overnight. Brining ensures full-flavored, tender turkey as the salt and liquid will seep into the whole bird.
3. Get Under The Skin
Make a mixture of soft butter and herbs and smear this under the skin. You should be able to gently pull up the skin and, using your fingers, spread this butter between the skin and the meat. The result!! Tender, juicy meat and super crispy skin.
4. Never Forget The Stuffing
You can go for a traditional bread-based stuffing but you should make it yourself. Crumble bread that is a day or two old and add butter and your favorite herbs. Then stuff. Many people love the stuffing as a side dish once the bird is cooked.
If you aren’t a fan of bread-based stuffing, shove a whole lemon that you have poked with a kitchen knife to release the juice. Team that with aromatic herbs and you’ll have a tasty and fragrant turkey. You could get super creative and use other citrus fruits as well.
5. Invest In A Turkey Fryer
If playing the guessing game with cooking a turkey fill you with dread, invest in a turkey fryer. You may think this is a waste of money for something you’ll only use once a year, but you can cook other birds like chicken, duck and goose, so you will get lots of use out of it.
As the name suggests, a turkey fryer involves literally frying the turkey in oil. It may sound unhealthy but the oil actually doesn’t soak into the meat. The moisture from the turkey repels the oil, hence the frothiness we see when moist food is fried. In fact, the only part of the turkey that may be a little oily is the skin. The meat will be deliciously moist and evenly cooked.
The other benefit of using a turkey fryer is that you can fit a much larger bird in this appliance which is great for people with small or convection ovens. And, as the heat can stay at a consistent temperature, you get the even cooking right throughout the meat. You can also do this outside on the patio, freeing up your oven for other Thanksgiving goodies.
Enjoy your perfectly cook Thanksgiving turkey and share a great meal with the most important people in your life.