How to Roast a Tender & Juicy Turkey!

How Do I Roast a Turkey

How Do I Roast a Turkey

How Do I Roast a Turkey?

It is that time again when people’s thoughts begin to turn to a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Many people choose to order a pre-cooked bird, or to go out for a family dinner. But if this is a choice you make because you are afraid of cooking a big turkey, or because you don’t really know how, the time has come for that to change. However, the big question still remains “How Do I Roast a Turkey?”

When it comes to turkey you have many options. Fresh or frozen. Large or small. Free Range or farm raised.Even a wild bird may be an option if you have hunters in the family.

Choose a bird that gives about 1 and 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. IF you really like the breast you can purchase a breast only portion or an extra breast portion if you have a large gathering of white meat lovers. If you choose a fresh bird, do so only 1 or 2 days prior to cooking. A frozen bird will take several days to thaw in the refrigerator. One advantage is that most frozen turkeys are basted and produce a bird that is more succulent and juicy. Be sure to keep thawed turkey at a temperature of at least 40 degrees for safety. Use paper towels to dry the bird after washing and prior to stuffing.

You also want to cook a fresh bird as soon as possible. Never stuff your turkey the night before. You will want to prepare the stuffing and stuff the turkey immediately before roasting.

You will want to thaw the bird in the refrigerator at a rate of about 1 day for every 4 pounds of bird, so a 20 pound bird will take about 5 days to thaw. Keep the bird on a tray in the original package. In an emergency, if you can thaw your bird in a sink full of cold water. Figure on about 30 minutes per pound. Change the water every hour, and turn the bird over frequently. Once thawed, keep the bird in the refrigerator until ready to clean, stuff, and cook.

Stuffing and Roasting The Turkey

Stuffing the bird is OPTIONAL. Many people prefer not to cook their stuffing inside the bird and there are positive points to this choice. However, traditionally most families do stuff their birds, so with that in mind here are some tips.

Prepare your stuffing just before you plan to stuff and cook the bird. This includes cooking any of the ingredients and mixing the stuffing with the required liquids. You should let it cool only enough to handle before inserting it with a spoon or gloved hands into the bird. Stuff loosely as the stuffing will expand from the juices it absorbs from the bird. I have also learned that a stuffing that is a little dry seems to work better than a soft or wet stuffing.

While the stuffing cools slightly, prepare the bird by removing the packaging and the gizzard pack. Remove the neck and any additional giblets that may remain in the cavities. Most frozen birds may also have a gravy or additional packet in the neck cavity. I remember learning about that once when mom cooked a bird and forgot to take a gravy packet from the neck opening.

Wash the bird under cold running water. Be sure to wash the inside cavity. Dry with paper towels and set on a tray or in a foil lined roaster on a rack with the breast side down. Rub the inside of each cavity with salt. You may use a lot or a little depending on your preference and whether or not you have a salty stuffing.

Lift the skin flat and stuff the cavity with the stuffing, but not tightly. Just enough to fill. Pull the skin flap back over the stuffing and twist the wing tips over the end of the flap to hold it closed. Turn the bird over, breast side up.

If the legs are tucked or wired you MAY have to release them, however you can stuff the cavity without doing so if you use a small spoon or a gloved hand. Again you want to stuff lightly so that the expanding stuffing does not overflow onto the pan. Be sure to re-fasten the legs if you have released them. You should not really need to truss the bird unless you want to. You can use the metal pins and butcher’s twine to tie the legs closed.

Finally, massage the breast with butter to help the skin crisp and brown. Tent the bird. Fold a large sheet of aluminum in half and drape over the bird loosely. You will want to baste your bird beginning after the first hour and about every half hour after that. You may want to turn your roaster if you have noticed that your oven cooks unevenly.

Turkey Cooking Time

I prefer to cook my bird at about 350 degrees but your specific recipe may call for a higher or lower temperature. At 350 degrees, however a 10 to 18 pound turkey takes 4 to 5 ours to cook. You want an internal temperature at the center of the stuffing to be abut 165 degrees, and deep in the thigh at about 180 degrees. The meat should be a reddish-pink at the thigh and the juices should be clear. Remove the foil tent during the last 45 minutes to allow the skin to brown and crisp.

Be sure to let the bird sit for at least 20 minutes when you remove it from the oven. This is perfectly safe and allows the juices to draw back into the bird. Carve with a sharp knife in the kitchen or at the table and don’t forget the cranberry sauce and gravy. Make the gravy with the pan drippings and you will have a truly memorable hit on your hands.

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