20 days 'till Thanksgiving. Whether this is your first attempt at a great holiday meal or a seasoned pro, I've got some recipes, tips, tricks and assorted bits of knowledge that I am sure you will find useful.
This will be daily blog posts from now until Thanksgiving covering a different aspect, dish or dilemma each day. So for the first blog post, let's tackle the turkey.
FRESH OR FROZEN?
I have used both to great success so the choice is yours.
If you are using fresh make sure as with any meat it comes to room temp before cooking. It may take a couple of hours so book that into your prep time.
Thawing a frozen turkey takes time, but the good news is that you’ve got some options if you find yourself behind schedule. You’ll need to take special care when defrosting your Thanksgiving turkey, since some approaches (like defrosting it on the counter) are unsafe.
You’ve got at least two safe alternatives for safely thawing your frozen turkey — and a third option if your turkey is small enough. Here’s what you need to know about each method:
1. Refrigerator Thawing
This is the easiest method for defrosting a turkey — but it also takes the longest amount of time, so you’ll need to plan ahead.
• Keep the frozen turkey in its original, unopened wrapper and place breast side up in a container or tray that will prevent the turkey juices from dripping on other foods.
• Place the frozen turkey in the fridge — be sure your refrigerator temperature is set at 40 °F or below.
• You’ll need to allow about 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds of frozen turkey you plan to thaw in the fridge.
Approximate times to defrost a whole turkey in the fridge:
- 10 pounds — 2 days plus 12 hours - 15 pounds — 3 days plus 18 hours - 20 pounds — 5 days - 25 pounds — 6 days plus 6 hours
Do you have to cook the frozen turkey as soon as it’s thawed? No — as long as the turkey was thawed in the refrigerator. Turkey that’s been defrosted in the refrigerator can be kept for an additional 1 to 2 days in the fridge before cooking. But as always, bring it to room temp before cooking.
Another plus of thawing turkey in the refrigerator: If your plans change and you decide not to cook the turkey at all, you can safely refreeze the defrosted turkey within 1 to 2 days (although there may be some loss of quality).
2. Cold Water Thawing
You can defrost your frozen turkey much faster in cold water. But compared to refrigerator thawing, the process will require a lot more attention on your behalf.
• Make sure the frozen turkey is in a leak-proof package or plastic bag.
3. Microwave Thawing
I gotta be honest here, beyond making tea or reheating my coffee I am not a microwave fan, but you can thaw a turkey if it's small enough or just the breast in your microwave and you have a defrost setting. My recommendations if you must do this, check it very often and only thaw it part way to give you a jump start. If you let it go even a minute or two too long it will start to cook and dry out.
TO BRINE OR NOT TO BRINE
Brining is an excellent way to impart flavor and insure the most tender and juicy bird imaginable. I LOVE brining, can you tell? I always made a good turkey but once i started brining (and a few other things which I will share tomorrow) I made great turkeys my guests raved about and continue to. I highly recommend you try it. It's well worth the extra time and effort. If you're intimidated by it but want to have the amazing results, we can brine it for you.
This is my favorite brine recipe for any poultry:
For a 12-14 lb turkey. Obviously increase the ingredients proportionately for every lb
7 quarts water 1 quart apple cider 3/4 cup kosher salt 1/3 cup granulated sugar 1 large onion, diced 1 large or 2 small carrots, diced 3 ribs celery, diced 1 head garlic, cut in 1/2 equatorially
Combine the brine and a bowl of ice ice in a cooler big enough to hold the turkey, brine & ice with some room to spare. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and set in cool area for 12-16 hrs. For my 20-29 lb birds, I let them sit in the brine for 24-30 hrs insuring the brine/water stay cold replacing some ice if necessary, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Once out of the brine rinse the turkey inside and out thoroughly and pat as dry as you can get it both inside and out with paper towels. be prepared to use plenty of them.
Then prepare your turkey for roasting or frying either according to your favorite way or using some of the tips or recipes that will follow here in days to come.
Tomorrow, we discuss proper prep for your turkey before cooking and plenty of flavor profile options as well as some secrets from the pros as to juice up that bird. No one likes a dry bird. Probably a big reason why people only eat Turkey once a year is the dreaded dry bird.