A little bird told me that a loyal reader ... who has yet to speak out in the comments ... is hosting her first Thanksgiving and in need of some tips. (Yes, Lauren, I'm looking at you!) Thus, without further ado, I now present my most cherished Thanksgiving secrets.
- Follow this link to the Food Network's website and scroll down the page to their miraculous Turkey Calculators. The first one will tell you what size turkey you'll need to feed your crowd and the second calculator will tell you all you need to know about cooking it. Simply input the size of your bird, indicate whether or not it will be stuffed, and choose your desired dining time. That's it! Like magic, this spectacular tool will do the rest of the work for you and even tell you when to begin roasting your turkey. This is the most valuable link I will ever post. Learn it, know it, use it, love it!
- The above magic notwithstanding, ovens vary greatly in terms of cooking speed - so get yourself an instant read meat thermometer and use it properly. Your turkey is done when an instant read thermometer - inserted into the thickest part of the breast or thigh - reads 165 degrees. DO NOT - and I can't stress this enough - rely on your turkey's pop-up timer. This is the most useless gimmick ever invented. Without fail it will pop too soon or, in some cases, may not pop at all. Forget the pop-up deal and take the turkey's temp yourself. If you know your oven runs fast, begin checking an hour before the indicated time and proceed accordingly.
- Basting is over-rated and largely unnecessary. Season your turkey well with a lovely compound butter, throw some savory, aromatic veggies in the bottom of the pan, place the turkey in the oven and forget about it. Half-way through your roasting time, add some chicken broth to the bottom of the roasting pan, close the oven and forget about it again until its time to start checking the bird's temp. I have never in my life served a dry turkey and I don't baste.
- Let your turkey rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving it. The turkey will continue to cook a bit as it rests, so be sure to account for that by removing it from the oven when the temperature reaches 165 degrees. Cover the bird with foil, tell your guests to back off and remember that patience is a virtue ... the juices will redistribute themselves as the turkey rests and your patience will be rewarded with moist, delicious tenderness.
- Some recipes will tell you to cover your bird's breast with foil during the initial phase of roasting and remove the foil later to let it brown. I discount such notions as poppycock and insist on roasting my turkey uncovered until it has achieved a rich, mahogany color. Like I said, I've never served a dry turkey and this method has always worked for me. Keep an eye on the bird, once it has browned to your satisfaction, cover the breast with foil and proceed. Use your judgment and don't drive yourself crazy over it.
- Lastly, make sure your roasting pan is large enough to accomodate both your turkey and the aromatic vegetables used in roasting. Do not cram a giant bird into a tiny pan - you'll be sorry if you do and you'll have a huge mess on your hands. Be sure that the whole bird, legs and all, fit within the confines of your pan. If you're going to be hosting and roasting a fair bit, you'd do well to invest in a quality pan. I adore my Calphalon roaster! A good, dark roasting pan is the key to a rich, savory gravy and a well-browned bird. I wouldn't dream of roasting a turkey without it - its well worth the investment.
- DO NOT, under any circumstances, use a foil roasting pan. Don't even THINK about using one. Period. I will say no more.
Meanwhile, what's your favorite turkey tip? Curious Diva wants to know!