In honor of Thanksgiving this week I thought it would be appropriate to write about how to cook a basic turkey. It’s actually fairly easy, it just takes a long time. I wish I could post pictures but we are not making a turkey this year. My husband LOVES to make the turkey but this year we decided to go to my grandparents’ house instead. So no pictures just some basic tips and instructions.
First you need to buy a turkey. Either fresh or frozen will work fine but if you buy a frozen turkey make sure you buy it several days before you plan to cook it. You should buy 1 to 1 ½ pounds per person you are serving.
A frozen turkey should be thawed in its package in the refrigerator. Allow one day for every 4-5 pounds. If you haven’t purchased your turkey yet and you plan to cook it on Thanksgiving Day, you need to buy a fresh turkey because you do not have enough time to thaw a frozen one.
Place the frozen turkey on a platter or in a dish to catch any juices. The last thing you want to do on Thanksgiving morning is clean turkey juice out of your refrigerator. Place the turkey on the lowest shelf possible, that way if juice does leak out it doesn’t leak all over everything on every shelf.
To begin preparing the turkey on Thanksgiving morning, begin by washing it. With the turkey in the sink, remove the wrapper and the package from inside the cavity. Although if you cook the turkey with the package inside I don’t think anything bad will happen because my husband did this the first time he made a turkey. We found the package when we were carving it – oops! Rinse the turkey with cold water, both inside and out. Let all the water drain out and off of the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.
The next few steps can be modified to suit your tastes. This is just the way my husband likes prepare the turkey. Rub the outside of the turkey with a stick of butter. Stuff the inside of the turkey with citrus fruits – orange, lemon and lime halves – white onion quarters, celery, fresh poultry herbs and another stick of butter. Tie the legs of the turkey together to keep the all those goodies inside.
We prefer to use a disposable roasting pan and an oven bag to cook the turkey as it makes clean up extremely easy. Buy your roasting pan at the same time that you buy your turkey and make sure that your turkey will fit in the roasting pan!
Open the oven bag and toss in a tablespoons of flour. Hold the bag closed and shake to distribute the flour. The Reynolds website says this helps keep the bag from bursting. Then place the turkey inside the oven bag and set the turkey in the roasting pan. We like to cook our turkey upside down with the breast on the bottom. This keeps the meat really moist and eliminates the need for basting. Some people do not like to cook the turkey upside down because the turkey is not as pretty and brown when it is finished. I however am more concerned with the taste than the appearance so it’s upside down for us.
Now it is ready to bake. Put the turkey in a preheated 325 degree F oven and bake according to the following schedule for stuffed turkeys:
10-18 lbs 3.75 – 4.5 hours
18-22 lbs 4.5 – 5 hours
22-24 lbs 5 – 5.5 hours
24-30 lbs 5.5 – 6.25 hours
Unstuffed turkeys will not take as long. Check on your turkey periodically and then at the beginning of the time range start testing the temperature. A turkey is done when it is browned and a thermometer stuck in the thigh reads 165 degrees F.
Remove turkey from the oven and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes. Now is the time to bake all your side dishes. After the turkey has rested you can carve and enjoy! I have absolutely no tips on carving a turkey. FIL always does it. An electric knife helps but that’s all I know! When dinner is over you can just throw out the entire roasting pan and oven bag with all the scraps left in it.
Here’s a really funny practical joke you can play on the host and hostess at your Thanksgiving dinner. Bring a cooked Cornish hen with you to dinner but keep it hidden. Have someone distract the host and hostess while they turkey is being carved. Place the Cornish hen inside the turkey’s cavity and then say, “You had a pregnant turkey!” and point out the Cornish hen. Have your camera ready to take a picture of their shocked faces because it will take them a minute or two to realize that a. turkeys lay eggs and do not have live babies, b. if a turkey was indeed pregnant, the baby would not be headless and defeathered inside its stomach. Trust me I know. I’ve had this joke played on me and I’ve never laughed so hard in all my life. Good times, good times.
Happy Thanksgiving!!!! Tomorrow is homemade cranberry sauce.