Thanksgiving Traps and Tips
Believe us, we know how intimidating Thanksgiving Dinner can be. Between opening your home to the masses and getting the timing right on all those Thanksgiving Side Dishes there’s a lot to consider. But there’s nothing worse than the main event: That daunting Turkey.
Don’t panic I have rounded up a few of the most common turkey mistakes that plague millions of each Thanksgiving — don’t make these turkey cooking mistakes this Thanksgiving. I also quizzed a few southern grandmothers to make sure our tips meet the grandma seal of approval.
1. You put a cold turkey in the oven.
If you’ve thawed your turkey in the fridge, you don’t want to put it straight from the fridge into the oven. Roasting a cold turkey can result in a dry, unevenly cooked turkey. So after thawing that bird, there’s still more temperature adjustments to be made.
Once your turkey has thawed, leave it on the counter for about an hour so that it warms up closer to room temperature before roasting. A thawed turkey is perfectly safe left on the counter-top for an hour.
2. You don’t season all parts of the turkey.
If you’re not brining, you’re going to want to season your turkey well. Just sprinkling some seasoning on the outside isn’t going to give you the savory meat you’re looking for.
Make sure to season both outside and inside of the cavity. Doing so will season the meat from the inside out. Learn how to season your bird inside and out. Not only with spices but butter and vegetables as well.
3. You’re not using a roasting rack.
If you think the roasting rack is just another unnecessary step in the turkey cooking process, think again. Without a roasting rack, the bottom of your bird will be dry and overcooked. It might even burn.
Consider investing in a roasting rack to keep the bottom of your turkey from steaming and sticking to the bottom of the pan. You can also create your own DIY roasting rack by using a bed celery and carrots, or rolling aluminum foil into balls and placing the turkey on top.
4. You open the oven door too much.
Just like a watched pot never boils, a watched turkey never cooks… because you keep opening the oven door. Every time you open the oven door to check on your turkey or baste it, you’re letting heat out. Although you might not think much heat escapes during those few seconds you had the door open, it can take the oven several minutes to get back up to temperature.
Rather than basting, which requires you to open your oven door every half hour, try dry rubbing your turkey. If it gives you peace of mind to get a look at your turkey while it’s cooking, use the oven light instead of opening the oven door.
5. You cook your stuffing inside the turkey.
Thanksgiving traditionalists will be disappointed to learn that stuffing a turkey (in other words, cooking your stuffing inside the raw turkey) is widely frowned upon by food-safety experts. In order to get the stuffing cooked, it requires you to cook the turkey even longer. So your options are basically cooked turkey and undercooked, contaminated stuffing or cooked stuffing and overcooked turkey.
Cook stuffing outside of your turkey. It tastes better and is safer. I think it is easier to serve.
6. The oven is too hot.
If the skin on your turkey is burning while the meat is still under cooked, it’s probably because you’ve started out with the temperature too high. There’s a better way to get a crispy golden skin!
Cook the turkey at a slower pace, normally between 350 and 400 degrees F. I cook low and slow. 350 degrees and I estimate about 25 minutes per pound of turkey. Example: A 10 pound turkey at 20 minutes per pound calculates to 200 minutes (Or 3 hours and 34 minutes.)
7. You don’t use a meat thermometer.
The small “pop-up thermometer” that comes with some turkeys can be faulty, often not popping up until your turkey is overcooked. Meat is perfectly safe to eat at 165 degrees F, and you don’t want to wait any longer because otherwise you will end up with dry meat. I recommend using the low and slow method above and checking with the thermometer when you calculate the length as described in step 6.
Solution: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your meat. Depending on the size of your turkey, you should begin checking the temperature starting at the3-4 hour mark. The turkey will continue cooking once you take it out of the oven, so you can even remove it once the thermometer reads 160 degrees F. Again see the calculations in step 6.
8. You’re putting the thermometer in the wrong spot.
Another flaw of the pop-up thermometer that comes with many turkeys is it’s often inserted into the breast of the bird. This won’t give you the most accurate reading of when your turkey is done, because unlike the light meat of the breast, dark meat takes the longest to cook.
Insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, where the crease meets the breast. Once this spot has reached the desired temperature of 165 degrees F, you know your turkey is ready.
9. You’re not letting the turkey cool.
As patient as you have been throughout this whole process, there’s still more waiting to be done. Carving your turkey immediately after removing it from the oven will cause the juices to pour out all over your cutting board, leaving you with a dry turkey.
Allow the turkey to sit for at least 15 minutes before you cut into it. This will give the juices time to settle into the meat, giving you the tender and juicy result you’re going for.
These are just a few of Grandmothers Tips over the years. We hope it will take some of the stress off of the Thanksgiving Turkey Prep. Namaste, The Queen Cronista!!!