Tuesday, November 13, 2012
How to Cook the Perfect Holiday Turkey
These first things may sound redundant for ol' pros but trust me, they need to be mentioned. The directions are your best friend, that's why they're there. Of course, I tweak mine ever so slightly but the directions on your bird should always be your fall back. Another thing? When you're thawing it in your fridge, do yourself a favor and let it thaw in a pan. You don't want all of that grody food poisoning juice leaking all over your other food now, do ya?
1. If yours comes with a surprise bag o' gravy like mine did, decide if you're going to use it or not and set aside.
2. See that big long thingy? That's the neck which they thoughtfully jam in the turkey's bum for you to make gravy with or cook up for your weird Uncle Harold. Don't roast it in the bird and don't think this is all of the goodies, they've left you.
3. Flip the bird around and in the neck flap is a nice bag o' giblets (organs) just for you! You'd be surprised how many necks and giblets get cooked every year in those birds!
4. If you're not going to use any of the "freebies" they gave you, you can do what I do which is put it all (including the washed off plastic wrapper the turkey came in) in a Ziploc bag, roll it to expel the air and throw it away in the garage/outdoor trash can.
Time to make the butter that flavor's this bad boy!
5. I use fresh herbs in mine which are just parsley and rosemary with 4 tbsp of butter.
6. If you don't have fresh, you can certainly use dried. I'd recommend rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage (or poultry seasoning and have some black pepper on hand.)
7. If you're using fresh herbs, mince them and add your black pepper over the butter. A couple of shakes of pepper will do.
8. Add your herbs (fresh or dried) to the top and start mashing it all together. The more herbs the better as the butter is really second to the herby star!
You might want to put on some Barry White because you're about to get really intimate with Tom Turkey.
9. Run your hand under the skin on the breast making sure not to poke through it.
10. Gently work your hand back and forth under the skin until you almost reach the neck cavity and making sure you don't dislodge the pop up thermometer.
11. Grab a slab of herb butter, go back under the skin and rub it over the breast on each side making sure you get front to back to evenly distribute the herbs.
12. When you're done, make sure you pull the skin back down over the breast meat so it doesn't dry out.
You'll note the herbs under the skin in the top two pics. If you want to get fancy pants and really impress your family, get some bay leaves then tuck them under the skin with the butter. Not only does it flavor the meat but it looks really pretty when it's done roasting! If you have any remaining butter, you can rub it on top of the skin too.
I also like to cut a clementine, nectarine (below) or orange and stuff it in the cavity so it provides some flavored steam as it roasts. You could also squeeze it in the cavity and leave the rinds inside.
Now it's time to "fit" your bird to save yourself some irritation later.
13. Since the wings are susceptible to burning to a crisp, make sure you cover them completely. They will still brown but they won't disintegrate which is a plus.
14. Get a piece of foil as long as the bird and fold the ends in on one end.
15. Press the widest part over the front of the neck cavity and tuck it in between the legs as you move back and the smallest part will cover the back of the legs. Press it all down.
16. Remove the foil "armor" for later use.
17. Add about 1 1/2 cups of water to just cover the bottom of your roaster. (I usually wash out my herb butter container and use that water so there's some butter and herbs that'll steam into the meat as it cooks.)
18. Put it in the 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
19. After 30 minutes, knock the oven down to 325 degrees then add your "foil armor" back to the top of your turkey and bake according to the directions based on what size bird you have. (IE- I had a 15 lb bird and it recommended 3-3 1/2 hours so I baked it for 30 minutes on 400 then 3 hours on 325 and it was perfect!)
This is what greets you when it's done...
Herby goodness, perfectly browned skin and moist...IF you let it rest! Do not touch the bird for 15 minutes! The juices need to redistribute and if you don't want it to look like a scene from Christmas Vacation and have your turkey implode into a dry heap, you'll leave it be before cutting into it or taking out the pop up timer.
See...worth waiting for. Hello lover.
Peel back the skin and you've got perfectly steamed white meat and look how that drumstick just falls away! Let's cut this bad boy up! (I'm using mine for leftovers but use whatever method you're used to.)
20. Cut the breast down one side of the breast bone until the knife meets resistance.
21. Cut horizontally along the bottom in toward the breast bone meeting your original cut.
22. Remove the breast (try not to eat it all yourself).
23. Slice into pieces.
I always separate the white and dark meat, it's a preference thing but feel free to do what you like! Don't forget to save the wishbone to dry it out and pull it for your wish!
Tip: Sometimes a dry turkey can happen and I have a little trick to "revive" it should it happen. Get 1 cup of low sodium turkey or chicken broth, the same herbs you used for your butter and add to an 8x8 pan. When the turkey comes out to rest, put the pan in the oven. If you should find the turkey isn't juicy enough for you even with resting, pull the pan out of the oven and using a spatula, dip each piece(s) into the broth and put on your serving tray. If it's just you in there, no one will ever know the difference. *wink!*
If you have any questions about how much turkey you'll need, conversions, how long to thaw a frozen bird and all of that, you need to check out Butterball's tip page. It's awesome!
This tutorial was linked up with The Shabby Creek Cottage, Vintage Wanna Bee, The Winthrop Chronicles, Back for Seconds, Creations by Kara and Lil Luna.
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