Thanksgiving Turkey Cooking TipsArianna Gooden
Everything you need to know about from purchasing to cooking your turkey.
You can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without the turkey on the menu. This giant bird is the centerpiece of countless family tables bringing holiday traditions and joy to so many families. Although it can be quite tricky and overwhelming to think about preparing and cooking, we’ve made it quite simple to find out everything you need to know in one place.
So, let’s talk turkey!
1. How to pick the right sized turkey?
First, determine how many guests you need to feed. Then, as a rule of thumb, calculate the number by 1 lb of turkey per person.
2. How to thaw and clean your turkey safely?
If you buy your turkey in advance and it’s frozen, keep it frozen until you’re ready to thaw in the refrigerator or in cold water. Allow approximately 24 hrs for every 4-5lbs. If it’s fresh, only buy your turkey 1-2 days before you plan to cook it and store it in the refrigerator at 40 °F or below.
3. How to brine your turkey and which is better?
For the juiciest turkey, you can either opt for a dry or wet brine. Depending on your time and preference, it’s best to do a wet brine for 24 hours plus 12-24 hours left uncovered in the refrigerator to dry the skin or 24-48 hours for a dry brine. Both brines use salt as it’s the key ingredient that changes the protein structure so it retains more moisture while it cooks. The only real difference between both is the color of the skin after cooking. A wet brine will add more water to the skin leaving the skin less golden and a dry brine will draw the moisture out of the meat, resulting in a more golden skin.
4. How to make a wet or dry brine and which one to choose?
Both brines will prevent turkey meat from drying out and delivers a succulent bird. For a wet brine, you can mix 2 cups of kosher salt with 2 gallons of water or stock and ½ cup of brown sugar (dissolves nicely), and herbs (if you like some vegetable or fruit scraps for flavor).
Place all the ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, strain the liquids and let cool, and refrigerate until ready to use. When you’re ready to brine your bird, submerge it completely in the brine. You can use a container or securely seal in a bag (releasing the air) and refrigerate overnight (or place in a cooler with ice).
The next day, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse and blot dry with paper. For a dry brine, blend together 4 Tbsp of kosher salt, 4 tsp sugar, preferred herbs, a little lemon juice, and some olive oil which will give the skin a golden color and add some crispiness. Both recipes are for a 14-16 lb turkey. If you prefer to save time on brining a turkey, just purchase a kosher one (which by default is already brined).
5. How to season your turkey?
It would seem logical to season the top of the turkey but actually, it’s best to season under the skin to get the most flavor. You can whip softened butter with any desired herbs and spices and then generously rub it under the skin of the turkey. Another way to add some flavor would be to stuff the cavity with some slices of citrus like oranges and tie the turkey legs together with butcher twine.
6. How to roast your turkey?
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. When it comes to cooking your Thanksgiving turkey, there are many different ways so here are few; roast in a turkey bag (follow instructions on the box), roast in a roasting pan on some cut vegetables or without, deep-fry, grill, or smoke it in a smoker.