We’re just TWO days away from Thanksgiving! Are you ready? Today’s the perfect day to get to the grocery store and pick up all your produce and any other last minute things you might need. Do you have enough butter? Olive oil? Don’t forget to get a bundle of fresh herbs and plenty of lemons. Is your turkey thawing? If not, make a game plan.
Today, I wanted to share some tips on how to cook your turkey to get the best possible results as well as some tips on how to safely prepare your turkey so no one gets sick. I’ll go over these tips in the order you’ll need them to cook the turkey so it’s easy to follow along.
Raw Meat Safety Tips
Thaw Your Turkey In The Fridge
This goes for really any meat but especially a whole bird and one as large as a turkey. Transferring meat from the freezer directly to the counter is dangerous because temperatures above 40°F allow harmful bacteria to grow and can cause salmonella.
Do NOT Wash Raw Turkey
Splashing water can lead to germs spreading to other surfaces around your kitchen. Also, it doesn’t really get rid of much bacteria because most bacteria on meat is attached tightly. The bacteria will die during the cooking process, so there is no need to wash it anyway. Unwrap the turkey in the sink so any blood goes down the drain. Throw the plastic away and move the turkey to the pan.
Keep Clorox Wipes or Other Sanitizing Spray On Hand
I don’t think this needs much explanation. Keep this stuff out and open while you’re working with the raw meat so you can easily disinfect and wipe down any surfaces. I like Clorox wipes because you only touch what you’re using. Also, wash your hands often.
Make Sure You Have An Accurate Meat Thermometer
It’s really hard to tell if a bird this large is done all the way through without one. If you’re not sure your thermometer is accurate, spend the extra $10 to pick one up. Your guests will thank you. Plus it’s a kitchen tool you should have every day, not just Thanksgiving.
Lastly, Work Clean and Work Smart
I find the easiest way to keep your kitchen safe and clean is to designate a spot specifically where you’ll prepare any raw meat. I like to use the counter space next to the sink and pull a trashcan up next to me. This way I’m not moving the mess around or potentially dropping raw meat every time I go to put a dirty dish in the sink or throw something away. Plus using a smaller space means easier cleanup. You don’t have to worry about if you maybe touched a surface with turkey blood on your hands.
Seasoning The Bird
Okay, now let’s get into the fun stuff.
To Brine or Not To Brine
Brine is a mixture of salt and water that you soak the turkey in. It ensures a well seasoned, moist bird. You can also add other herbs, spices, or vinegar to the brine and it will give you a nice flavor all the way through. This method takes 16-24 hours. On the other hand, you may not get as intense of a flavor as injecting or rubbing the turkey. You can, however, brine the turkey and then inject or rub it. Just remember to thoroughly rinse all of the salt off and be aware of how much salt you put into your rub or injection. It’s easy to overseason when using two methods of marinating. The Pioneer Woman has a really great Brine Recipe.
Go With What You Know
Thanksgiving comes once a year, so have fun and change it up every year. Why not? However, I wouldn’t go too crazy. It would really suck to spend all day making a Creole turkey just to find out you don’t like Creole at all. If you’re going to use a marinade you’ve never tasted, it’s a good idea to try it out on a chicken breast beforehand.
Bring Your Turkey To Room Temp
Take your turkey out of the fridge 2-3 hours before you plan to roast it to bring it to room temperature. The turkey will roast faster and more evenly if you do this.
Use a Tinfoil Tent
Don’t even try to flip a piping hot, 25 lb turkey over while it’s roasting. Thanksgiving is already a stressful day to be in the kitchen, don’t make it any harder on yourself than it needs to be. Instead, prop a tinfoil tent over the turkey for the first 1-2 hours of roasting. That way it won’t dry out or brown too quickly. After the two hours, remove the tent and continue to cook the bird as usual.
ALWAYS Baste The Bird
Basting is so important when it comes to turkey. It ensures golden brown, crispy skin and juicy, well-seasoned meat. It’s like seasoning a soup or sauce at each step. Plus the leftover basting liquid and other pan drippings make the best and easiest gravy. I like to use a simple combination of half dry white wine and half chicken stock.
Place The Legs Towards The Back of The Oven
Because you’ll be opening and closing the oven about every hour, the back of the oven will stay much hotter than the front. The legs of the turkey are the meatiest part so you’ll want to keep them in the hottest part of the oven to make sure the entire bird cooks evenly.
Use A Rack
A rack goes in the bottom of the pan and keeps the turkey from sticking to the sides. It also allows steam to escape so you don’t end up with a soggy turkey. If you don’t have a rack you can make a ring of tinfoil and place it in the bottom of your pan to prop the turkey on, or you can cut onions, carrots, and celery in half and make a rack out of vegetables to give you lots of extra flavor.
Resting and Serving
The 10° Rule
Because of the size of the bird, once you remove the turkey from the oven it will continue to cook for a little bit, it will rise in temperature of about 10°. I suggest taking your turkey out around 155-160° to avoid having an overcooked bird. Use the tinfoil tent trick to keep the heat in.
Factor In Resting Time
Don’t be one of those people that don’t plan resting time for the turkey and then ends up not resting it at all or serving cold food. Plan 20-30 minutes for the bird to rest. In this time, make your gravy and reheat anything that you need to. Have a glass of wine, relax a little before the meal starts.
Keep The Carving In The Kitchen
It’s way too difficult to carve a turkey at the table. Between having to reach over everything and the table not being the proper height, it’s just not worth it. Carve the turkey properly in the kitchen.
That’s all! I hope you enjoyed my turkey tips and they help you make the perfect bird this Thanksgiving! Share your turkey pics with me in the comments or by tagging me (@avocadomulatto) on Instagram!
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See you next time!