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How To Roast A Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

SourceL Edsel L via flickr

The folks around here like to call me a “food snob” – because I like to cook.  As the resident “foodie”, I’ve been asked to provide guidelines on roasting the perfect turkey.

The first step involved selecting a turkey.  I prefer frozen turkeys over fresh turkeys  – and here’s why:  Frozen turkeys are processed and flash-frozen immediately after processing;  Unless you know the farmer who raised that “fresh” turkey, you need to seriously ponder how “fresh” that bird really is.  In other words, if it was processed a few days – or weeks ago – it’s been sitting around getting old in a cooler somewhere.

At the same time, you need to ask how many people you will be feeding and how much leftover turkey you want.

Next, you should start the thawing process with enough time to make sure it’s ready for your table.  The proper way to thaw that turkey is in the refrigerator;  Depending on how large of a turkey you bought, you may need 4 to 5 days to get it un-frozen.     [IF – and I mean IF you didn’t start thawing it soon enough, you can always use the Cold Water Bath method – by submerging it in cold water, replacing that water with fresh cold water every half hour – until the process is complete.

When it’s time to prepare the turkey for the oven, start with a good roasting pan.  First off – those foil roasting pans are a disaster waiting to happen.  They also don’t heat evenly.  You should buy yourself a good quality heavy roaster – preferably with a removable rack for whatever you’re roasting to sit on.

After you buy the roasting pan — and this is important:  THROW THE COVER AWAY!!  Too many people make the mistake of using that cover that came with the roaster.  You should NEVER cover your roaster pan with a cover;  Instead, you should “tent” your meat with foil – so that it doesn’t draw the juices out of the turkey.  (Incidentally, this same rule applies to beef and pork.  Under no circumstances should you ever use the cover to a roasting pan – unless you want dry, tough meat or poultry).

Getting back to your Thanksgiving turkey.  The next step is to butter the outside, lightly salt (Kosher Salt is better…) and pepper it, and stick a “probe-style” thermometer into the thigh meat behind the leg.  If you don’t have a “probe-style” thermometer – you need to buy one.  You can find them for around $10 at food stores or hardware stores that have a kitchen equipment aisle.  The probe goes into the oven with the bird and the digital receiver goes out on the counter – or in your pocket.   Most have alarms that you can set for a “target temp”.

Speaking of that target temp – it’s 155-160.  You can also do the “leg-twist” maneuver to see if it’s done;  To perform the “leg-twist” maneuver, you do just that – try to twist the leg.  If it turns in the socket easily, your turkey is done.

Towards the end of the roasting process, remove the foil tent to let your turkey brown.  But – save that foil tent for later use.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to baste your turkey.  A lot of people incorrectly believe that basting a turkey makes it juicier;  It doesn’t.  Basting a turkey accomplishes one thing – browning.  If you do baste your turkey, do it sparingly;  Every time you open the oven door you’re dropping the temperature in the oven, and it will take longer for your meat to be done.

When the turkey is at temp, remove it to the counter – and let it rest with it’s foil tent for at least 15 minutes.  If you carve it too early, all the juices will run and you’ll end up with dry meat.

Roasting a turkey isn’t the daunting task that most people make it out to be.  It only takes a couple of hours depending on how large your bird is and the results are delicious.

Oh, and one last thing:  Don’t throw away the bones/carcass.  That’s the start to your homemade soup – which can be our topic for a later blog.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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