Tips to Cook the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

November 23, 2016 in Holiday & Seasonal Comments
By: Christian Gordun

Aside from all shopping deals and coupons for Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday there is some serious cooking and eating going on as well.  For many, the meal prepared at Thanksgiving is the largest cooking project that they will undertake all year.  And a turkey is the culinary centerpiece of that meal for many families.  The sheer size of the turkey itself can cause a cook to become intimidated but by using a few tried and true tips, your Thanksgiving bird will turn out perfect every time.

Avoiding Common Mistakes

You want your Thanksgiving dinner to be memorable, but not for the wrong reasons.  Take a minute and look over the following list of common mistakes made by cooks when handling and cooking turkeys:

Mistake #1 – not taking out the giblets.  Many people who are cooking turkeys for the first time don’t realize that the inner parts or giblets of the turkey are packed in a separate plastic bag inside the cavity of the turkey.  The giblets are traditionally used to make the gravy that goes over the prepared meat.  Always remove this bag before cooking.

Mistake #2 – not thawing the bird properly.  Turkeys are big and they can take days to thaw out all the way.  The USDA recommends letting your turkey thaw in the refrigerator at the rate of one day for every four or five pounds.

Mistake #3 – not taking precautions to avoid cross-contamination.  When handling raw turkey meat, there is the possibility of harmful bacteria being spread to various surfaces.  Keep in mind that anything that touches your raw turkey should be washed right away in hot, soapy water.  This includes utensils, cutting boards, other food, and your hands. 

Keeping the Breast Moist

One of the biggest complaints about turkey is that the breast meat is far too dry.  But this issue can be easily overcome.  The biggest challenge in cooking turkey is to thoroughly cook the dark meat without overcooking the breast which makes it dry and tasteless.  Before you cook your turkey you will need to invest in a good cooking thermometer.  According to the USDA, your turkey is not safe to eat until it has reached 165 degrees at its thickest point.  Follow these tips to keep your breast meat moist and make it taste great.

* Before putting your turkey in the oven, soften several tablespoons of butter and mix in a few tablespoons of your favorite herbs such as rosemary and thyme.  The herbs can be dried or fresh.

* Cut a slit big enough for your hand between the skin and the meat of the breast.  This is where you will smear your herbed butter. 

* Don’t butter the outside of the bird.  Instead sprinkle on salt and pepper.  This will enhance the flavor of your turkey which is naturally mild-tasting.

* To add even more flavor, put raw onions and celery, and halved citrus fruit such as lemons and oranges into the cavity of the bird before cooking.  These items are for flavor only and should be discarded when the bird is finished cooking.

Cooking Your Turkey

The length of time it takes to adequately cook your turkey depends on how big it is.  As a general rule, you will place your thermometer into the thickest part of the breast before cooking and place your turkey in a roasting pan.  Cook the turkey for the first thirty minutes at 475 degrees.  Then you will reduce your oven temperature to 250 degrees and continue to cook your turkey for 20 minutes per pound.  You can either put the lid on the roasting pan for less crispy skin or leave it off if you like your skin a little more crispy.  Avoid opening the oven door to check on your turkey as this will cause a great deal of fluctuation in cooking temperature.  Your turkey is done when the thermometer reads 162 or 163 degrees.  At this point, you will remove the turkey from the oven and let it sit for about 20 minutes.  During that time, your turkey will continue to cook and will reach the required 165 degrees.

Cooking a turkey can be a daunting task even if you consider yourself to be a seasoned cook.   By following these tips, you will be able to cook a perfect turkey every Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving from the team at Coupon Craze!

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