If you’re not sure how to prepare your main Thanksgiving dinner attraction for you family feast, here are some helpful tips to take you through the whole process of cooking that perfect, juicy turkey that will make mouths water!
Buying: Count on 1 to 1 ½ pounds of turkey for each guest, and also keep in mind on how much leftovers you want. Instead of buying one large turkey, you can choose to buy two medium-sized turkeys to cut the cooking time. As for fresh vs. frozen, both have ups and downs. Fresh eliminates having to thaw before cooking, but costs more, while frozen is cheap but more time-consuming to prepare.
Thawing: There are two options to thaw a turkey the best way; in the refrigerator or in cold water. Thawing in the fridge is the preferred way (if you have enough fridge space), allow one day to thaw per pound of turkey. A 15-pounder usually takes three days.
Or you can opt for submerging it in cold water in its original wrapper, but make sure it is completely covered with cold water. Try covering the turkey with a plate and place some heavy cans on top of it to keep it totally submerged. It is vital for the sake of safety that you change the cold water every 30 minutes. Using this method, it will take approximately 30 minutes per pound to thaw a turkey.
Roasting: To prepare for cooking, remove the giblets, which can be saved for later use in gravy or stuffing, and rinse the turkey inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Once prepared, follow these steps from Allrecipes.com:
- If you are stuffing the bird, stuff it loosely, allowing about ½ to ¾ cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
- Brush the skin with melted butter or oil. Tie drumsticks together with string (for stuffed birds only).
- Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should point towards the body, and should not touch the bone.
- Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven. Use the following chart to estimate the time required for baking.
- Bake until the skin is a light golden color, and then cover loosely with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but helps promote even browning.
Carving: Grab your carving or chef’s knife (the longer, the better) to start your carving steps from Allrecipes.com.
- Remove the drumsticks and thighs. Start by pulling a drumstick away from the bird and using the knife to disconnect the thigh bone from the body. Set it aside to carve later, and remove the second drumstick. Also, remove the wings in the same fashion to fully expose the breast for carving.
- To carve the bird, make sure it’s lying on its back, breast-side up. Begin with a long horizontal cut at the base of the breast. You might be able to feel where the breast meat ends and the bone begins–cut as close to that area as you can.
- Begin slicing the breast from the top down, working at a slight angle to cut away from the carcass. The horizontal cut at the bottom provides a convenient stopping point, making it easy to finish each cut. Transfer slices to a warmed serving platter.
- To carve a drumstick, hold one end and slice off one side. Lay it flat on the cutting board and continue carving. Slice each side, turning the drumstick a quarter turn until you’ve removed all the meat.
- Place the thigh on the cutting board and begin slicing parallel to the thigh bone. Cut into even strips. Arrange the rest of the meat onto the warmed platter and serve.
If you’re more of a visual learner, reference this how-to video from Cooking.com for carving guidance!