Despite what your local radio stations may have you believing, it’s not Christmas time yet. There are plenty of holidays to go around this time of year – including one of the most valued and important ones of all: Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and being grateful for what and who you have in your life, as well as stuffing yourself with mouthwatering turkey.
Chef Nancy, our cooking extraordinaire in the Gingerbread House, has shared some tips on preparing a successful gobblin’ bird to be enjoyed by everyone you love joining you around the dining table next week.
Choose the right turkey.
With so many selections and varieties to choose from, it’s important to select a turkey that will satisfy everyone at the dinner table. Choose a fresh turkey without added ingredients. Some other fantastic choices would include organic, kosher, heritage or premium-brand turkeys.
Purchase the correct size.
When contemplating what size turkey you should purchase, keep in mind that you should allow for at least 1 pound per person. For turkey breast, plan on 3/4 pound per person. If it is a boneless breast, allow 1/2 pound per person. However, it’s not Thanksgiving without leftovers. Tack on an additional ½ pound per person for leftovers. With proper preparation, you should be able to feast like a king for a week.
Preparing your scrumptious holiday bird to perfection takes a bit more time than popping something in the microwave. You should start defrosting your turkey at least 2 days in advance. Nobody wants to bite into a frozen bit of bird at the big meal.
Getting ready on Thanksgiving Day.
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator about one hour before placing it in the oven. This will allow the bird to reach room temperature before cooking.
Sharpen up your brining skills.
To help produce a succulent, moist, juicy and flavorful turkey with the least amount of effort, you need to incorporate brine. By permeating brine into your holiday masterpiece, it fills the bird with flavor and helps all the delicious juices within the meat retain moisture. To put it simply, all you have to do is submerge the turkey into a large pan filled with a salt-water solution for several hours in the refrigerator.
Do not over baste.
Basting by definition is the act of pouring juices, or melted fat, over meat during the cooking process to keep it moist. This is a good step to include; however, constant basting can lead to negative results. Every time you open up the over door to baste, it releases heat and prevents the bird from cooking properly and it forms a layer of fat that prevents crisping.
Keep a Thermometer handy.
Taking the temperature of your turkey is one of the most valuable steps to take. Invest in an instant-read meat thermometer and insert it into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone. Wait for it to read a whopping 165 degrees Farenheit and voila! You may take your turkey out of the heated confines of the oven.
Leave some time for a rest period.
After the turkey reaches 165 degrees F you may take your nearly ready bird out of the oven. However, you should plan on reaching this step at least 30 minutes to 2 hours before you serve. This rest period allows the temperature of the turkey to increase another 10 degrees, thus guaranteeing that the juices have completely marinated within the turkey so that every bite is full and rich with flavor.
Contributed by Jenny Wells