It’s Turkey time! If you’re feeling nervous about cooking the big bird next week, never fear…Chef Alli is here! I’m sharing tips, pointers, rules, and HELP for successfully cooking a turkey on the big day. Below are four solid tips for taming turkey terror.
1. Be Sure Your Turkey is Completely Thawed.
Nothing can ruin Thanksgiving dinner plans quicker than a turkey that’s still partially frozen at the center when it’s time to pop him into the oven.
Yes, we can purchase a fresh turkey to alleviate the thawing part, but odds are most of us are going to buy a frozen bird. And as we are all aware, a frozen turkey requires adequate time in the fridge to thaw….something we can easily forget until it’s almost too late!
Since thawing the bird is really crucial to how a turkey cooks, let’s consider the math for the thawing process: it takes 24 hours of refrigerator thawing time for every 4-5 lbs. of frozen turkey. So if you purchase a 12-15 lb. turkey, you’re looking at 72 hours (3 full days!) in the fridge, at the very least, to fully thaw him. Long story short, I try to get my turkey out of the freezer and into the fridge 5 days before I’m going to cook him, just to be safe.
2. Yep, You Better Brine That Bird!
Why brine, you ask? Because brining is a a very effective technique that is super easy to do and pays off big when it comes to poultry and pork. It keeps your bird moist and juicy, and also enhances the flavor of the meat. One of the best ways to brine a turkey is in a big cooler, which keeps the turkey cold and safe when you place a bag of ice on top of the turkey to keep him submerged in the brine.
3. Learn How to Use an Instant-Read Meat Thermometer to Temp Your Turkey.
For every pound of turkey, plan for 15-20 minutes in the oven, and a 12 lb. turkey should take approximately 3 hours to cook, but that’s an estimated time. The only way to know exactly when to stop the cooking process is by taking the actual internal temperature of the turkey. I typically cook my turkey to about 160 degrees F in the breast, a safe internal temperature, then cover it to rest for 20 minutes or sow. This rest will allow the turkey to raise a few more degrees in temperature internally, to the perfect 165 degrees F.
4. Don’t Skip The Beauty Rest. Your Bird Needs It!
It’s a terrible idea to slam an ice cold turkey into a hot oven! Get your bird out of refrigeration and pat him dry, then place your bird into a greased roasting pan, letting him rest for 30-45 minutes at room temperature. This let’s your turkey relax and prepare for cooking. (If he’s so relaxed that he asks for a cocktail, you’ll know you’ve over done it!)
When your bird comes out of the oven, resist the temptation to carve him right away; he needs more beauty rest! Resting after he’s cooked allows the juice in the meat to redistribute evenly. If you get anxious and carve him too soon, you will lose a lot of that lovely juice.