This is the season for thanksgiving and for me, I am thankful for my life! I am thankful for new opportunities and a fresh start every 24 hours to create new memories, new possibilities. I am thankful for my family and their unwavering support of me through my journey of culinary school. I am thankful for food, good food most of all!
Enough about me- well, maybe just a little more!
For the past 20 years or so I have been cooking some part of the Thanksgiving dinner. About 10 years ago I decided I was grown up enough to try cooking the turkey. Through many trials and errors I have struggled to cook the perfect turkey. “Martha” has been a great resource for me but still she hasn’t actually stopped by to give me pointers or personal tips. I am positive she hasn’t shown up to help any of you either so, I have decided to share with you some tips I have learned to hopefully help you cook a successful turkey also.
Five Tips to a Better Bird!
Tip #1- Brine Your Turkey – you can find numerous recipes online but essentially, you need lots of sugar and salt. The sugar gets into the meat of your turkey and helps to retain the moisture while cooking. The salt helps to tenderize. All the other things add flavor, but only slightly. The most important component is the sugar and salt. You will need at least 12 hours, a vessel that will hold your turkey, water and be able fit into the refrigerator. Go online and find one that suits you or use this basic recipe from Cooks.com (http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1761,134179-247198,00.html).
Tip # 2- Roasting time will vary depending on the turkey size. However, the general rule of thumb is a 14 lb turkey will usually cook in about 3 hours at 350F. If your turkey is bigger than 14 lbs, add 15 minutes per lb. A good measure to check if the meat is done (besides the instant read thermometer) is to poke the thigh meat deep and see if the juice runs clear. If there is any white coagulation that collects at the hole, that is blood. That means it isn’t finished cooking yet! If you’re using an instant read thermometer, it should read 170F when the turkey is done.
Tip #3- After the first hour of cooking, be sure there is always about 1/2 inch of broth, water or liquid in the bottom of your roasting pan. The liquid will help keep the air moist around the turkey, helping the turkey stay moist! The reason for waiting an hour is because you want your vegetables to start caramelizing in the bottom before you add liquid. Don’t worry or stress if your veggies don’t get caramelized. Just keep liquid in the bottom.
Tip #4- If the skin is getting to dark and the meat isn’t done cooking, tent the bird with a piece of foil.
Tip #5- When the turkey is done roasting, remove it from the pan and let it rest under a tent of foil while you make the gravy , in the roasting pan! Letting the turkey rest gives the juices a chance to redistribute throughout the turkey and make the meat succulent moist! Letting it rest up to 30 minutes will also make it a little cooler to handle while cutting.
Be sure to use the drippings in your pan for your gravy. Drain off excess fat, leaving only enough for your gravy.
That is about all I have for tips to a successful turkey. I hope this helps make things a little less stressful and more successful.
Remember, it is about the day and being together. The food is only secondary to why you are together! So have a great Thanksgiving and many happy memories, even if the turkey burns to a crisp and the potatoes turn to glue. That is a memory you will always have to smile about!
I don’t think I am “grown up” enough to try cooking my own turkey. But one of these days I want to try. Thanks for the tips.