It’s Thanksgiving again and you know what that means – turkey! Whether you’re new to the Thanksgiving tradition or not, the turkey has always been the centerpiece of this holiday. It’s savory and juicy and it can serve a large group of people in just one sitting.
There are many ways to cook a turkey. Some will say that cooking with the best turkey fryer is the easiest method, but others think that using the grill is better. But the most popular cooking method (and also the simplest one) is roasting. As you can see in a number of TV shows, roasting a turkey can be really simple. But there are also times that it can turn into a disaster especially if the turkey isn’t cooking or you don’t have enough time to cook it.
So to help you not waste a beautiful turkey, here is a step-by-step guide on roasting a turkey like a pro.
Step 1: Thawing
Unless you’re cramming, most turkeys will be frozen on your freezer. This means that you have to thaw it properly so that you can brush the skin with butter or oil. Without proper thawing, your turkey could end up floating on a pan of water.
There are three ways to thaw a turkey and all are based on how long it will take. First one is a slow thaw. A slow thaw is done by leaving your turkey in the fridge. The rule is that for every 5 pounds of turkey, you should give 24 hours for thawing. So if you have a 15-pound turkey, then expect that you have to prepare 3 days before you actually cook it. You can start by placing the turkey breast-side-up on a pan and leave it in the fridge with its wrapping on. The baking pan will keep the water from dripping all over your fridge.
The second way is thawing in cold water. This will bring down your thawing time to half depending on the weight of the bird. Usually, one pound of turkey needs 30 minutes to thaw completely. To start, place the turkey in a large leak-proof plastic bag. Make sure that it still has its original wrapping to keep its juices and nutrients. Remove the air from the bag and seal it. Submerge the turkey in a large bucket with cold water. You can place a plate on top of the turkey to keep it submerged. For every 30 minutes, change the water.
Lastly, you can thaw a turkey using a microwave. Before you do this, read the manual of your microwave so that you can follow the right guidelines. Remove the original wrapping and place the turkey breast-side-up on a microwave-safe pan. The pan will catch all the water from the ice. Adjust your microwave to the settings it needs to defrost a turkey. Once this is done, cook your turkey right away.
Step 2: Stuffing
Once the turkey is completely thawed, you can now start stuffing your turkey. But before you put anything inside the turkey, first take out the giblets. The giblets refer to the heart, liver, and gizzard of the turkey. Some people prefer leaving these parts inside because they leave a richer flavor. There are also some who just use these parts in making the gravy or the dressing. When it comes to using the giblets, it’s really up to you.
After removing the giblets (or leaving it there), rinse your turkey. Rinse it with cold water and pat it dry using paper towels. Then, start putting the stuffing the turkey from the neck cavity. Use a spoon so you don’t spoil the stuffing. When you’re done, put more stuffing inside the body cavity. Always remember that your turkey shouldn’t be filled with stuffing. Just put ½ – ¾ a cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.
Tip: For added flavor, you can rub butter or a mixture of some herbs inside the turkey. This increases flavor and moisture.
Step 3: Trussing
Before you start trussing, this is the right time to prep your oven for preheating. Raise the temperature to 450°F while you simultaneously tie up your turkey.
There are two parts that you will be focusing on – the neck flap and the drumsticks. The first thing you have to do is to close the neck flap. Remember that earlier you placed stuffing in it. Closing the neck flap will keep the aroma and the flavor inside the turkey. Do this by pulling the neck’s skin gently. Use this to cover the filling. To keep things in place, use a wooden skewer to lock the skin. This is similar to how you clasp a safety pin.
For the drumsticks, place the turkey breast-side-up. Tuck the edge of the wings under the shoulders so that it doesn’t burn while you cook it in the oven. This also creates a flat surface for the whole turkey. Then, face the drumsticks towards you and get a long piece of kitchen twine. Bring the ends of the two drumsticks to the middle and tie them together. Make sure that you wrap the kitchen twine at least twice. Cut off the excess twine.
Step 4: Roasting
After all those steps, you are now ready to cook your turkey. Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan while making sure that it’s breast-side-up. To add more flavor, color, and crisp, you can brush the skin with butter or oil.
The roasting time per pound depends on whether your turkey is stuffed or not. A 10-18-pound turkey can take around 3-3 ½ hours of roasting if it isn’t stuffed. If it is, add another hour to cook it. Similarly, an 18-22-pound stuffed turkey can cook for 4½ to 5 hours.
If you preheated the oven to 450°F a while ago, lower the temperature to 350°F when you place the turkey inside. Leave it in the oven and wait for the skin to turn a light golden color. Once it reaches this color, place a foil over the turkey to prevent over browning. 45 minutes before the turkey is cooked, remove the foil to let the turkey skin go brown.
To check if the turkey is fully cooked, don’t rely on the color of the skin. Some people assume that it’s the best indicator for a well-cooked turkey. But this isn’t the case because the best way to check is by using a thermometer. Stick the thermometer in the thickest part of the thighs. If it reaches 165°F, it’s fully cooked. If your turkey has stuffing, make sure that they are also at the same temperature.
Step 5: Resting and Prepping
Once your turkey is cooked, leave it in the pan to rest. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes before you start carving. This will let the juices seep into the turkey. This will also make sure that it will stay moist. Carving it too early might turn your turkey dry.
While waiting, you can make the gravy or the dressing to complement your turkey. Turkey gravy can be made using both turkey and chicken broth. Heat 4 cups of this and add a ¼ cup of fat from the turkey drippings. You can get this from the roasting pan that you used while cooking. Add half a cup of water and stir it with a whisk. While you do this, put the saucepan on medium heat. Also, add ¼ cup of floor all-purpose flour and cook it until the mix shows a golden-brown color. You can add some seasonings to your gravy to make it more flavorful.
Step 6: Carving
When everything else is ready, you can either serve your turkey as it is or carve it beforehand. If you want to carve it, you should first place the turkey on a chopping board. Make sure that the turkey is placed breast-side-up so that it’s easy to carve.
Start by holding the turkey down using a carving fork. With a knife, slice through the drumstick breast and the thigh. Then, focus on the legs as you cut the thigh part away from the drumstick. Locate the joint in between them and cut it in half. Slice through these parts to get the meat and place it all on a serving plate. Go back to the breast part and slice diagonally to get the wing. Once you’ve taken off the wings, you can now remove the meat from the breast part by slicing close to the bone. When you’ve taken all the meat from the bones, arrange them on a plate.
With these 6 steps, it seems like you can already create a well-cooked Thanksgiving turkey. This is a great guide for the beginners and even the experts who want to relearn the basic steps. And as you go along, you might find ways to make your turkey more flavorful and moister. You can add more seasoning, probably try brining, but that’s for a more complex cooking procedure. But if you’re already satisfied with these steps, then you don’t have to go through the brining process.
- How To Cook a Turkey: The Simplest, Easiest, Method – The Kitchn
- How to Cook a Turkey – All Recipes
- How to Roast a Turkey the Easiest Way – Epicurious