If you’re a little on the nervous side when it comes to cooking the all-important Thanksgiving Turkey, this one’s for you! Here are some Turkey Cooking Tips from our good buddy Deal Detective Kim:
Turkey Cooking Tips
You know what I hate most about Thanksgiving–a holiday I happen to love? People who think turkey is dry. If it’s dry, it wasn’t cooked right! Turkey should be moist and juicy, but because it’s so lean, it does need a little help and some special TLC.
The number one key to delicious, moist turkey is NOT overcooking it, which is the mistake most people make. Remember when I told you how to cook ribs and I said “low and slow” on the grill? That’s because pork ribs have a high fat content. The meat won’t dry out because it has plenty of fat to keep it moist. Turkey is the opposite, it’s already very lean, so it will dry out if you try to cook it “low and slow”. Just to give you an idea, a 30 pound turkey, un-stuffed, only needs to cook about 5 hours; a stuffed one 6 hours & 15 minutes. It does need to “rest” for a few minutes before carving (that lets the juices redistribute…if you don’t let meat rest a few minutes between cooking and cutting, all the juices run out onto the carving board) but even so, you can tell by those numbers that you shouldn’t need to get up in the middle of the night to start your turkey unless you’re having it for breakfast!
Your oven should be preheated to 325 degrees. (Just think “big chicken”…because that’s really what a turkey is–a big chicken. You’ll have to cook longer, because it’s larger, but the technique and temperature are about the same. Turkey’s just leaner than even chicken is.)
Keep some melted butter handy on the stove and baste the turkey every 30 minutes or so. When the turkey gets brown & gorgeous, take a fairly large piece of aluminum foil and “tent” the bird to keep him from getting too brown. He’s done when your thermometer registers 170. Don’t depend on those little “pop up” timers; they’re not as accurate. It’s worth it to invest in a real instant read thermometer to get perfect results every time.
Here’s a tip from one of my favorite TV chefs, Bobby Flay. I saw Bobby on a Thanksgiving show once and he suggested that if you’re having a large gathering, have 2 medium turkeys rather than one huge one. First off, they’re easier to lift in and out of the oven! Secondly, it cuts the baking time, even if they can fit in the oven together. Third, you can carve one in the kitchen and have that meat ready to pass as you bring in the other one whole to be carved at the table. Not to mention less fighting over the drumsticks! (Forget the drumsticks, I’d fight over Bobby Flay–looks good AND he can cook. His lovely wife is a very lucky woman!)
I also saw Bobby make this amazing herbed butter for his turkey a couple of years ago, and I tried it myself. It was soooooo good. All he did was put softened butter, chopped fresh sage, and chopped fresh garlic in the food processor and whiz them up, then rub the whole bird good with it and keep brushing it on the turkey at about 30 minute intervals. My mouth is watering just remembering how good that tasted!
Now if you still have questions, who knows more about turkey than our friends at Butterball?
Butterball has a chart of how long to roast a turkey by size. You can punch in fresh or thawed from frozen, stuffed or unstuffed, all the variables and it will tell you about how long it should cook. AND if you hit a snag, they operate a turkey 9-1-1 line at 1-800-288-8372 !
I hope you all have a GREAT Thanksgiving!! I personally have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is plenty to eat and a roof over my head. I hope everyone reading this is blessed with the same. When you say your prayers, don’t forget those who aren’t as blessed, and especially don’t forget those who have to work the holiday–those preparing for Black Friday in your favorite store, and the servicemen/women, police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, 911 telecommunicators, and hospital personnel who are protecting and serving us. Most of them are used to working holidays, but it doesn’t make it any easier on their families.