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Turkey Tips

Preparing a Thanksgiving turkey can be a daunting task for anyone. Fear not! There's a first time for everything and roasting a turkey requires little experience in the kitchen. Read on for some pro turkey tips that will help make the centerpiece of your holiday feast a real showstopper!

Buy a Fresh Turkey

You'll be off to a winning start for your Thanksgiving meal if you buy a fresh turkey. Poultry is inherently tough and the minute you freeze it, you lessen your chance of the end product being tender. Think of frozen meat that has been thawed as an overstretched rubber band that loses its flexibility; turkey loses a bit of its tenderness when overexposed to extreme temperatures.

For best results if you do buy a frozen turkey:

Keep the turkey in its wrapper and thaw the turkey for a day or two in the refrigerator. As a general rule, allow 24 hours of thaw time per 5 8 lbs.

Unwrap the turkey early in the morning on Thanksgiving.

Remove the neck and giblet bags from the body cavity and make sure the turkey is not frozen on the inside.

If the turkey is still frozen, run cold water inside the body cavity to help it thaw.

Put the turkey back into the refrigerator and keep it covered and cool until you're ready to stuff the bird.

Cooking Method

While many Southerners swear that deep-frying a turkey is a surefire way for tender meat, most of the country prepares their bird using an open pan roasting method. The benefit of deep-frying turkey is that the bird cooks quickly and you have all that free space in your oven to make side dishes. Conversely, you can't stuff a turkey that is going to be deep-fried. The skin turns a very dark brown; and the turkey must be supervised the entire time it is cooking in the hot oil.

The big plus about open pan roasting is that you can pack the turkey with stuffing, which adds flavor to the bird. Also, a stuffed bird helps keep the meat moist in that it acts as a barrier inside the body cavity creating a steam effect with the drippings as the bird cooks.

For best results using an open pan roasting method:

Make sure your oven temperature is accurate.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Factor 20 minutes of cooking time per pound.

Clean the turkey inside and out. Again, remember to remove the giblet bag and neck.

Stuff the bird right before it goes into the oven.

Place the turkey breast side up on a roasting rack in a large pan. The rack will allow heat to circulate around the entire bird.

Truss the legs together if necessary. Tuck the wing tips under the bird so they don't burn. Put the neck skin in place.

Insert a meat thermometer into the meat on the turkey's thigh being careful not to touch the bone. Turkey is done when the internal thigh temperature registers 180 degrees.

Follow the instructions below or in your own recipe for golden skin and moist meat.

Golden Brown on the Outside

A golden brown turkey is the crowning glory on many a Thanksgiving table. Most cooks achieve great color on their turkey skin by buttering up the bird! However, you can also use an oil-based marinade made from ingredients that are compatible with your holiday menu.

For best skin color results when roasting your turkey:

After thoroughly cleaning and stuffing the bird, spread softened butter all over the skin and sprinkle salt and pepper on top.

Roast the turkey uncovered until the skin is golden and then tent the turkey with aluminum foil for the remainder of the cooking time.

Moist Meat on the Inside

If you've followed all our tips until now, chances are your turkey will be tender and succulent. For best results try one of these methods for moister meat:

Use a flavor injector to insert butter or a marinade into various areas of the turkey meat.

Allow the thawed turkey to sit in a brine mixture for 24 hours prior to cooking.

Gently lift the breast skin and butter the meat under it.

Carving the Turkey

Last but not least is carving the bird which can be almost as intimidating as cooking it!

The biggest issue for most is where to start and how to carve the breast in order to make perfect slices. You can find some great tips for carving your main dish online and in various recipe books. 

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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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