Why all the fuss and stress over the Thanksgiving turkey? Well, it’s the centerpiece of the entire meal and there is usually a table full of people that you don’t want to disappoint…so it’s a BIG deal! But here is a complete fuss-free and easy method for cooking a perfect, beautiful Thanksgiving Turkey. You don’t even need an expensive roasting pan – they real key to a perfect turkey is to not overcook it. Plan ahead to get the timing right and you’ll come out with a gorgeous, super juicy, perfectly cooked bird.
WHAT SIZE TURKEY DO YOU NEED:
Buy about 2 pounds of turkey per person…that way you’ll have leftovers!
HOW TO THAW YOUR TURKEY:
Allow plenty of time for your turkey to thaw. A good rule of thumb is to allow one day in the refrigerator for every five pounds of meat. It’s a good idea to give yourself one extra day, just to be safe. Also make sure you set your turkey on a cookie sheet or a pan to catch any liquid as it defrosts.
DON’T WASH THE TURKEY:
If you wash your turkey in the sink, you will contaminate your sink. Instead, remove it from its packaging, dry it off with some paper towels and prepare it for the oven. Any bacteria on the turkey will be killed in the hot oven while it bakes.
DON’T BRINE OR BASTE THE TURKEY:
If you’re using a high-quality turkey from the store (like a Butterball), brining is an unnecessary step. You can do it if you want, but you can achieve a moist turkey with it. Basting is also unnecessary. It requires you to constantly open the oven, which causes it to lose heat and take longer to cook, which could lead to a dry turkey.
DON’T COOK STUFFING INSIDE THE TURKEY:
If you try to put stuffing inside the cavity of the bird, they turkey will be overcooked by the time the stuffing reaches a temperature that’s safe to eat. Instead, use the Good Ole’ Country Dressing recipe and cook it in a casserole dish. You can then fill the cavity of the bird with things that will give it flavor: salt, pepper, garlic, onion, apples, oranges, pineapple or celery.
TEST THE TURKEY WITH A THERMOMETER:
The only way to really tell if it’s cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit is by using a thermometer. Once it reaches 160 degrees F, take it out and tent it with foil and allow it to cook that extra 5 degrees inside the foil tent.
LET THE TURKEY REST:
After removing it from the oven, let it rest for 15 – 40 minutes in the pan and tent with foil. If you’re using the drippings for gravy, move the turkey from its pan to a cutting board and tent it with foil while it rests there.
HOW TO PREPARE:
First, remove the thawed bird from its packaging. Remove the neck and the bag of giblets and either discard or save them for gravy. Pat the turkey with paper towels. Next, season the cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff it with quartered apples, oranges, pineapples, onions, celery and fresh herbs. To help the turkey sit flatter, tuck the wings underneath and set it on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan, or on a bed of chopped veggies in a disposable roasting pan.
Next, use your fingers to loosen and lift the skin above the breast and smooth a few tablespoons of butter, garlic and herbs underneath. Use twine to tie the legs together and then slather the outside of the turkey with more butter, garlic and herbs. That’s it! You are now ready to let your oven do the rest of the work! Place the turkey into your preheated oven (350 degrees F) and bake for approximately 20 minutes per pound. Check the turkey about halfway through cooking to see if the skin is golden brown, and then place a large piece of tinfoil over the meat to keep it from overcooking.
GOOD OLE’ COUNTRY DRESSING
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
12 ounce bag of Pepperidge Farm Country Style Cube Stuffing
2 cups chopped celery
1 large onion, chopped
7 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/4 stick butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook sausage in a large skillet until it starts to brown.
Add melted butter, celery and onion and sauté for 5 – 10 minutes, or until transparent.
Empty the cube stuffing into a large bowl and then pour the sausage, celery and onion mixture on top.
Add the chicken stock, salt, pepper, sage and poultry seasoning and mix well.
Pour dressing mixture into a greased pan and back until cooked through and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Recipe from Barbara Novak
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