There is a lot you can do to insure you turn out a delicious, juicy Thanksgiving and/or Christmas Turkey. Here are the things I think one must do to set a delicious and juicy turkey in front of your family:
1. Buy a premium turkey at an quality meat or poultry market, Whole Foods, or a Fresh Market. Can you buy a good turkey at the Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Kroger, Lowes, or another supermarket? You certainly can. I would chose a premium organic turkey. The one thing on my holiday menu that I want to make certain is done right is the turkey. Therefore, my preference is to buy my turkey at a store well known for the quality of its meat and poultry. The turkey pictured was purchased at Whole Foods.
2. However, the way you prepare your turkey will be the biggest determining factor in whether or not you serve a delicious, juicy turkey. Scary? Yes. None of us is perfect, including Grandpa, but if you properly thaw the bird, prepare it well, keep your eye on the bird, take its temperature, and do not under or overcook the bird you're likely to fix a delicious, juicy bird.
3. If you don't have one, buy a meat thermometer and spare batteries. Use the thermometer to determine when the bird is done just right. You want the temperature of the middle of bird's breast to be 170 degrees (the thermometer should not be touching the bone). If you'd like take another reading, take one in the middle of a thigh (the thermometer should not be touching the bone) and the temperature ought not to be more than 180 degrees.
4. Roast the turkey for 12-15 minutes per pound. If you look at a lot of recipes you're going to see recommendations of anywhere between 12 and 20 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey. Sure, there are variances in oven temperatures and this is a darn good reason to own and use a meat thermometer. The turkey in the picture was 12.38 pounds. The breast temperature was 170 degrees in 2 hours and 45 minutes which was very close to 12 minutes per pound (unstuffed). This was a delicious, tender, and juicy turkey!
Why does a turkey turn out to be dry? Probably because it was overcooked. Start taking temperature readings when your bird has been roasted at something close to 12 minutes per pound.
When the center of the turkey breast registers close to or at 170 degrees, pull the bird from the oven and let it rest for a full 15 minutes before you start slicing it. (Be careful. Don't let the turkey fly off the platter:-)
It is your choice, but I don't recommend stuffing the bird. I bake dressing in a casserole dish.
- A great turkey:-)
- Duck fat and butter (or olive oil)
- Rock sea salt
- Coarse black pepper
- Fresh rosemary
- A good white wine
Move the turkey from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw 2 to 3 days before the day you cook the bird. Two days is usually enough for a small bird. Move a big bird 2 1/2 to 3 days before you want to cook it. The turkey must then be cooked within 24 hours after it is thawed. Check the bird the night before you cook to make sure it is close to being thawed. If not, run cold water over it for an hour or so (preferably while it is still tightly wrapped in plastic). Of course, one should also read and heed the USDA recommendations for cleanliness (aka the Poultry Police).
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees
1. Remove the giblets and neck from the cavity of the bird and save these parts in the fridge to make juices to use in preparing a nice dressing (used to be called stuffing but since some of us no longer stuff as a result of warnings from the Poultry Police, we now bake a dish that we call a dressing). Truthfully, I prefer eating dressing baked in a casserole. Refer to my dressing recipe which explains how to cook the giblets to make turkey juice.
2. Wash the bird thoroughly and pat it dry with paper towels. Oh yes, wash your hands with hot soapy water, the counter, cabinet doors and drawers, the walls, the seat of the car, your spouses arm, or anything else that might have come in contact with the raw bird, as recommended by the Poultry Police. Sure, if you like, get out your Clorox wipes and give the counter an extra good cleaning. Then get out that fancy bottle of that soft and soothing Hand Sanitizer, pour a dollop in the palm of your hands and rub your hands tenderly as you would in the old days with hand lotion:-)
Now comes the fun part.
Use your lovely clean hands to tenderly rub duck fat (or olive oil) all over the cavity of the turkey (the inside the bird).
Now rub the cavity of the bird with sea salt and coarse black pepper. If you have a rosemary bush, cut a wad of it off the bush and stuff the cavity of the turkey with the rosemary.
Rub the skin of the turkey with duck fat (or olive oil) and sprinkle salt and pepper on the skin.
Set a wire rack in a baking dishing. Taste the white wine to make sure it is good stuff. Pour about an inch of white wine in the dish below the baking rack. Set the turkey on top of the rack. Make a foil tent and set it over the bird. Put the turkey in the pre-heated 450 degree in the oven.
Then wash your hands in hot soapy water and rub them with some more of your soothing Sanitizer!
In 15 minutes, reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees. Do not forget to do this or you're going to burn the bird!
When there is an 45 minutes to an hour of roasting time left, remove the foil tent and baste the bird with butter. Return the turkey to the oven without the tent. Start checking the temperature of the turkey's breast when there is 30 minutes of baking time left. Follow the instructions above for taking the temperature of the turkey. Now that you know the temperature, you'll have a good idea of how much longer you need to roast it. Take the temperature often enough to get the bird from the oven at 170 degrees. Pull the bid from the oven and follow let the bird rest before slicing it.