While preparing a Thanksgiving meal can be stressful, preparing the turkey is the most intimidating, because regardless of what other dishes may be on the table, the Thanksgiving turkey is always the main attraction. To ensure your turkey comes out of the oven golden brown on the outside, while moist and tender on the inside, follow the guide and recipes below.
Trying to choose which turkey to buy is a little confusing. While most turkeys tend to look alike in the store, the difference is in the way they are raised, fed, and prepared for consumers to purchase. Choose the turkey that best suits you and your family.
- Prepackaged turkeys have added water to help keep the meat moist.y
- Free Range turkeys roam free and feed outdoors. A high protein diet supplies the turkey with the maximum amount of nutrients the turkey to grow larger than most turkeys.
- Organic turkeys have no added artificial colors or flavors.
- Kosher turkeys have salt added as part of the Koshering process, making it unnecessary to season with extra salt before cooking.
- Heritage turkeys have the rich flavorful taste of a wild turkey.
When buying a turkey, estimate about 1 to 11/2 pounds per person, but why not go ahead and cook a larger turkey than necessary to allow for leftovers, this way, you can sit back, relax, and let everyone eat leftovers for the next couple of days!
Serving Size Examples;
- 10lb. turkey serves up to 6 people:
- 12lb. turkey serves 6 to 8 people
- 14 to 16lb. turkey serves 10 people
- 18 to 20lb. turkey serves 12 to 14 people
Thawing turkey is unsafe at room temperature, thawing should only be done in the refrigerator. Estimate 24 hours in refrigerator for every 4lbs. of turkey. For example, a 16lb. turkey will need 4 days to thaw, and a 12lb. turkey takes 3 days to thaw, so plan accordingly.
Roasting time depends on the weight of the turkey. The package the turkey comes wrapped in will provide specific cooking times for a specific turkey weight. If you stuff the turkey, you will need to add an additional 30 minutes to cooking time. The turkey will cook best with the oven rack in the lowest position. Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Remove outside wrapper
- Remove package of giblets from body cavity, reserving giblets for gravy
- Rinse turkey inside and out. Blot the turkey dry with paper towel, inside and out.
- Brush turkey with melted butter or cooking oil, before and during cooking time, to help keep turkey from drying out.
- Season the turkey with salt and pepper.
- Stuff turkey with dressing, using recipe below (optional).
.When stuffing the turkey, make sure to stuff dressing loosely inside the cavity of the turkey. This assures the dressing cooks evenly and at a safe temperature. After stuffing the turkey with dressing, pull the neck skin over neck cavity, covering the dressing, then secure the neck skin in place with a skewer. If you choose not to stuff the turkey, bake dressing in a buttered pan, separately from turkey.
- 1 boiled and deboned chicken or hen
- 1cup chicken stock (stock from boiled chicken works fine)
- 1stick butter (unsalted)
- Three bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange), optional.
- 11/2 medium onions (minced)
- 2 tablespoons minced oregano
- Six sage leaves (sliced)
- 1-cup chicken stock
- 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ to ¾ teaspoons freshly ground pepper
- 6 to 8 cups cornbread, crumbled or diced into ½ -inch cubes
Mixing and Cooking Ingredients
- In a large sauté pan, melt butter. Add onions, bell peppers and celery. Cook until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add stock, sage, salt, oregano, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cornbread and vegetable mixture. Mix lightly to avoid mixture from becoming too soupy. Dressing with texture is best.
- Pour mixture into baking dish. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Place bite size pieces of deboned chicken down into the dressing.
- Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
Secure the Turkey Legs
Most turkeys come with a metal or plastic clamp to secure the legs in place while the turkey cooks, if not, cotton string (100% cotton only) will work just as well. Loop the string around the tail, cross one drumstick over the other, crisscross the string, then tie all three together, (tail and two legs). Tuck the wing tips under the turkey before cooking.
Bake the Turkey
Baste turkey with melted butter and season with salt and pepper, inside and out. In a large roasting pan with a rack, place turkey, breast side up. Occasionally baste the turkey with butter as it cooks to prevent the turkey from drying out. If the outside of the turkey begins to brown before the inside is fully cooked, place a foil tent loosely over the top of the turkey. This allows the inside to cook without further browning the outside. Cook the turkey for the recommended time and temperature. Test for doneness by sticking a long fork into the thickest part of the turkey. Turkey is thorougly cooked when juices run clear.
Do not panic if all does not go well, because even the most experienced cook makes mistakes, like forgetting to remove the giblet package from the neck cavity! Besides, one day, you will be able to look back and have a good laugh! After all this time, my family still laughs!