Cooking the Perfect Bird
Making a fail proof Thanksgiving turkey dinner
You've invited the whole family, penned the grocery list and started to dream about pulling off the most delicious Thanksgiving dinner ever. Then, the panic starts to set in. Browning up the perfect bird can seem like a daunting task for even the most seasoned chefs. Thanks to at least one expert in the kitchen, there are a few easy tips to make sure you witness roasting success! Mark Doucette is the Merchandising Manager for Albertsons' Meat Department. He also happens to know his way around the kitchen and offers this bit of tasty advice.
First things first, before you even get started cooking, Thanksgiving chefs often worry, "Will we have enough meat for everyone?" Never fear, it all boils down to simple math. Doucette says to allow 1.25 to 1.5 pounds of meat per person. With this equation, you're bound to have enough plus some extra meat for those tasty and well-loved leftovers.
When it comes to cooking the bird, not all ovens are created equal. While most experts suggest cooking your turkey at 325 degrees, Doucette says, "The key is to have a good meat thermometer (make sure not to touch any of the turkey's bones when you insert) and cook the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Then, remove from the oven and place a loose tinfoil tent on the turkey. It will continue to cook and the temperature will go up to between 170 and 175 degrees. Be sure to let the turkey rest at least 15 minutes before carving." As for actual cook time, check out your turkey's packaging. All come with suggested roasting times based on the turkey's weight.
Even though most cooks love to stuff their turkey before cooking, Doucette says you might want to rethink this cooking tradition. He says, "Stuffing will add to the cooking time and your turkey may not cook evenly." He suggests cooking the stuffing in a separate pan. If you love the flavors that stuffing infuses into the cooked bird, Doucette says, try to add some spice or even a few small onions instead. Just don't overstuff it; he says, "Make sure there is still room inside your turkey for the air to circulate."
Tips & tricks to ensure roasting success
Make sure to remove the giblets and rinse the body cavity before cooking.
There are a lot of pre-made brines or dry rubs that will help to add flavor and keep your turkey moist. Simply choose one that appeals to your taste.
Remove your turkey from the fridge at least 1 to 2 hours before cooking. This will allow it to come to room temperature, and will help ensure that your turkey will cook evenly.
Pat dry the outside of the turkey to remove moisture. Rub the skin with softened butter or oil. This will moisten the turkey and help it to brown.
Add stock to the bottom of the roasting pan and set the turkey on a rack above the stock to keep your turkey moist. If you do not have a rack, make one using a layer of carrots, onions and celery.
Keeping a lid on your roasting pan throughout the cooking process will eliminate any need for basting. Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of cook time to allow the skin to brown and crisp up.