Cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey properly is crucial to the success of your special holiday. How many times have you heard, “The Thanksgiving Turkey was so dry!” from complaining friends following their family gatherings? Follow these simple instructions and your Thanksgiving Turkey should be nothing less than a scrumptious, moist centerpiece for this annual feast!
Cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey:
Purchase either a frozen, fresh or even an organic bird – there are many options out there these days. A good assumption is that each person will consume close to one pound of meat, so if you have 24 guests, finding a 24 pound turkey is a good choice.
After defrosting (if you get a frozen bird), prepare it in a baking pan. Coat the entire turkey in olive oil, rubbing it into the skin as if you would lotion. This will help with moisture and also give the cooked turkey a nice golden brown glow. Sprinkle some garlic salt and pepper all over for flavor, and add about one inch of water to the bottom of the pan -- this will also help to keep the turkey moist.
Cook your Thanksgiving Turkey at 325 °F for the recommended time for its weight (this should appear on the packaging). Using a meat thermometer is a helpful tool to ensure the turkey reaches the correct temperature, 180 °F for the innermost part of the thigh and 170°F for the breast. Juices should also run clear.
Get Groovy with Gravy:
Once your turkey is cooked, remove the drippings from the pan to create gravy. Some prefer mixing flour into the juice in a heated sauce pan and adding salt/pepper to taste. There are also packaged gravy creations that you simply add to the drippings. Add water to reduce thickness if necessary.
To stuff or not to stuff your Thanksgiving Turkey?
Many are not comfortable placing stuffing into a raw turkey as the bacteria from the bird could potentially be transferred. If you do decide to stuff the turkey, cook it a bit longer to ensure that the internal center of the bird reaches the appropriate temperature ( and the stuffing must reach 165°F ) to kill any harmful bacteria. Additional stuffing can be placed in a separate casserole dish and cooked in the oven.
Note: The stuffing should be placed inside the Thanksgiving Turkey right before cooking, never before. Do not overstuff the turkey, as it will expand while cooking.
When your Thanksgiving Turkey is complete, give it about 15 minutes to sit and absorb the juices before carving away. Happy Thanksgiving!