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A Turkey Cheat Sheet

So we’re officially beyond Halloween and on to November. I get “little kid on Christmas” giddy just thinking about the Thanksgiving and holiday prep to come! Yes, I know, I’m a holiday addict and I should probably head to TRA (Turkey Roasters Anonymous) but I haven’t gotten to the “accepting I have a problem” stage yet! Anyway, like we started, it’s November and holiday preparations are likely already underway in your home (or at least in your head). To help you along the way I figured I’ll post up some simple recipes and cheat sheets to help keep your Thanksgiving Day and beyond as simple and peaceful as possible! What better what to start out the thanksgiving countdown than with a Turkey cheat sheet?

How big of a turkey do you need?

It is suggested that you figure 1 ¼ pounds of turkey per guest. Of course, the majority of your guests aren’t going to eat a full 1 ¼ lbs. of turkey, but after waste and bones that equals out to more than enough for your guests and leftovers.

How long will it take your turkey to thaw in the refrigerator?

You’ll want to allow a full 24 hours to thaw per 5 lbs. of turkey. So if you have a 15-16 lb. turkey, your best bet is to have it in the fridge defrosting by Sunday night.

What if you want or need to thaw your turkey quicker?

You can use a sink with a stopped, lobster pot, or cooler to defrost the turkey with cold water. You’ll fill until submerged and then change the water every 30 minutes. This method is faster, but it’s still time consuming. It still takes about 6 hours for a 12 pound turkey, so give yourself enough time.

Are you brining the turkey?

You can brine the turkey as it defrosts in the refrigerator, ½ cup kosher salt to 1 gallon of water. If you’re brining the thawed bird (for 24 hours or less) use 1 cup of salt per 1 gallon of water. The turkey must be kept below 40 degrees, though! You can also add any other flavorings to taste: cloves, rosemary, orange slices, bay leaves, garlic, onions, lemons, etc.

Dry curing or pre-salting?

You can also use a dry curing, or dry rub of sorts, the last day or two before roasting. Use a ½ cup of kosher salt per pound of turkey, and any other seasonings that you desire (salt and cracked pepper corns are a simple and delicious option). Spread over the skin and into all crevices of the bird. It’ll look like too much salt if you’ve never done it before, but it’s not. Place the turkey uncovered on a cookie sheet back into the fridge for the last one to two days. This also helps to dry out the skin so that it’ll crisp in the oven.

Do you stuff or truss the bird?

If you’re going to the perfect, most moist turkey that anyone has ever had…then no. With trussing the bird, you keep it together picture perfect, but it will take longer to cook the legs thoroughly. With stuffing the bird you really need to make sure to cook it long enough that the stuffing has reached the safe, 165-170 degrees all the way through. Both may cause your breast meat to dry out. Your best bet is to let the bird lie without trussing and stuff it with aromatics (such as lemons, oranges, onions, garlic, etc.) instead.

Roasting the actual turkey?

My favorite method is low and slow, starting at 450 degrees for the first 30-45 minutes, and then turning the oven back to 325 for about 12-15 minutes per pound. You can also roast at a high 425 degrees for 1 ½ - 2 ½ hours (depending on the size of the bird). Either way, use a meat thermometer to check multiple sections of the bird at the end of your time period to see if it’s really done. You want at least 165 degrees to be safe, I usually aim for 170.

To baste or not to baste?

Nope! All you’re really doing when you baste is letting heat out and moistening the skin so it stays flabby, rather than crispy. Your flavoring is in your dry rub, any herb mixture that you chose to run under the skin before roasting, and your aromatic stuffing.

Must it rest?

Absolutely! Once your turkey is up to temperature, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest, tented with tinfoil, for 20-30 minutes. This will help it retain its juiciness. 

Posted on Nov 6 2014 9:51AM
By LIFamilies




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