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15 Nov Tips for Cooking Your Turkey

(Yep, it’s that time!)

Why in the world do people stress so much over their Thanksgiving Turkey? Because it is the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal, and that usually means you have a table full of people so it is a BIG DEAL!

What size turkey to buy for Thanksgiving dinner

First things first: Buy about 1-1.5 pounds of turkey per person. (So if you’re feeding 6 people, buy at least a 10 lb. turkey). That way you’ll have leftovers.

How to thaw your turkey

Make sure and allow plenty of time for your turkey to thaw! A good rule of thumb is to allow one day in the fridge for every 5 pounds of turkey. Give yourself one extra day just to be safe. Set the turkey on a cookie sheet or pan, to catch any liquid the turkey may drip as it defrosts in the fridge.

Don’t baste the turkey

Basting is really unnecessary to produce a beautiful golden-brown turkey. It also requires you to constantly open the oven, which causes the oven to lose heat and the turkey to take longer to cook–which could lead to a dry turkey. By smearing an herb butter mixture over the outer and inner skin of the turkey you will ensure the skin will brown beautifully, and taste amazing.

Don’t cook stuffing inside the turkey

If you try to put stuffing/dressing inside the cavity of the bird, the turkey will be overcooked by the time the stuffing reaches a temperature that’s safe to eat. Instead, cook your stuffing in a casserole dish.  Then you can fill the cavity of the turkey with things that will give it flavor (and add flavor to the drippings/stock): salt and pepper and any mixture of onion, apple, carrots, celery, or citrus.

Do cook the turkey long enough

Ideally, any food you’re baking or roasting should be in the center of the oven to ensure even cooking throughout. Position your oven rack so the center of the turkey is in the center of your oven. For a large bird, this may mean moving your oven rack down a notch. Use the 15-minutes-a-pound rule.

Do test the turkey with a thermometer

The only way to really tell if the turkey is cooked (165 degrees F), is by using a thermometer. The breast should be cooked to 165 F and the thigh to 180 F. Its juices should also run clear when part of its thigh is pierced with the tip of a knife.

Do let the turkey rest

After removing the turkey from the oven, let it rest for at least 15 minutes, or up to 40 minutes (that gives you some extra time if you need to bake or warm anything else in the oven). If you’re using the drippings for gravy, remove the turkey from its pan to a cutting board and tent it with foil while it rests there. If you’re not using the drippings, then just leave the turkey in the pan and tent with foil.

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