Remember when your grandma used to get up before the sun to get the Thanksgiving turkey in the oven and then she’d tend to it all day long, basting and covering and uncovering the bird until it was finally done and ready for the Thanksgiving table? Today roasting a turkey need not be an all-day project, nor does it have to be roasted in the oven.
There are lots of ways to prepare turkeys to keep them moist and delicious and I’ve tried lots of them. Here are some suggestions that you can try for your next turkey dinner.
First, prep the old bird. This is pretty standard for all types of turkey cooking. Allow plenty of defrosting time. The safest way is in the refrigerator. For every five pounds of turkey, it takes about a day to defrost. If you forget and must defrost more quickly, you can put the turkey, still in its original wrapping in a sink or tub of cold water. Yes, even the bathtub works.
Cover it completely in cool water, NOT hot water or you’ll be cooking it. Change out the water every thirty to sixty minutes to keep the bird cold but still thawing. This takes about 30 minutes per pound.
Remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey. You can cook these and use in gravy or in making turkey broth or just toss them out. Get rid of any excess fat and skin. Then rinse the bird inside and out and pat it dry with paper towels.
For basic seasoning, sprinkle the body cavity with salt and pepper. If you want to get swanky, you can add fresh herbs, lemons, onions, or other goodies in there.
Tie the legs together and twist wing tips under back so they won’t burn on the tips. Then brush the turkey with oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. As I said before, you can enhance this step with additional herbs, butter and other things.
Before we discuss ways to cook your bird, always remember that after cooking the turkey, it needs to stand for at least 15 minutes before carving.
This is standard fare. Prepare the turkey as described above and place in a sturdy roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Take several layers of aluminum foil and form them over the breast of the bird, but not the legs; then remove the foil and set aside. Place the turkey in the oven and cook for thirty minutes.
Then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. and cover the turkey with the aluminum foil. Continue cooking until the temperature of the thigh reaches 175 degrees and the breast meat is about 165 degrees, about 2 to 3 hours depending on the size of the bird. The turkey will continue to cook a little after it is removed from the oven and is left to rest.