So, you figured out how you're going to cook your turkey now let's talk cooking prep and options as well as cooking itself.I figure 1 lb per person for the average eater and very little to no left
How much do you need? I figure 1 lb per person for the average eater and very little to no left. I have big eaters, like leftovers and love to make stock and soup the next day, or Turkey pot pie. I get 2 lbs per person. The yield for even the plumpest bird is barely 60% so a 20 lb turkey will yield no more than 12 lbs of meat MAX. That serves about 24 "normal eaters" to 12-15 of my family. In their defense we start about 3 Pm and round 2 generally comes about 8 or 9 while we're either watching football or playing games.
I also poll my guests. White meat or dark? And if I have more of one or the other than my bird can supply, I buy extra of the needed parts and brine and roast them the same way as my big bird, just adding them to the oven later so everyone is golden brown at one time.
Let's get to the prep. As I said I brine mine for maximum, run down your chin juciness. Of course I have to gild the lily by rubbing a generous amount of compound butter both under the skin then on the skin. Compound butter is a snap to make:
Take 1 stick of softened butter and add about 1 TBSP of your favorite herbs. Mix thoroughly and either put it into a mold, crock or form a log and wrap in cellophane tightly. Then chill and slice.
Compound butters are also lovely to use on the table for your breads and rolls. I either pipe mine into a nice shape or put it into small theme centric molds and place them on the bread and butter plates on the table.
To get under the skin (haha) just pull it gently from the meat on the breast and schmere away with that butter. You can get into the thighs a bit as welll. Be careful not to tear the skin. Then slather some more on the breast, legs, thighs and wings. Nice little turkey massage.
Bring your Turkey to room temp before cooking. Cooks more evenly and prevents nice crisp skin and under cooked insides or burnt skin and dry inside. You should do this with ALL your meats and seafood.
Now this one sounds backwards and it is but helps make a moister bird. Start it back up not breast up. this makes all the juices fall into the breast meat to be absorbed. Then flip it to brown the skin on the breast. How much time depends on the size of the turkey and we'll get into that.
Please don't stuff your turkey. Professional chef's never do. It will take so long to cook the stuffing to a safe temp that the bird will be dry. AND if you cook it so the bird is perfectly done, you may make someone very ill. ALL that stuffing in the bird absorbs any bacteria in the bird. Can you say Salmonella?
Besides, if you bake the stuffing/dressing separately in a baking dish you get much more of the beautifully browned top and corners of the stuffing.
Not stuffing the bird leaves plenty of room for inserting aromatics into that cavity. My go-to combo is 1 onion quartered, celery cut into 4 inch lengths, my favorite fresh herbs, couple cloves garlic, a carrot or 2 and either a lemon or orange quartered. All the moisture from that stuff steams into the bird. Now you have 3 make it juicy tactics on 1 bird.
Here's a roasting time guideline: I included roasting time stuffed for those who like to live on the edge. 325 degrees.
Weight of Bird Roasting Time (Unstuffed) Roasting Time (Stuffed)
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours
18 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours 4-1/2 to 5 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours 5 to 5-1/2 hours
24 to 29 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours
You only need to flip the bird breast up for the last 1 - 1.5 hrs depending on size.
Meat thermometers are cheap. Great investment. Cook the turkey until 165 degrees. Just be careful when you insert the thermometer to go to the meatiest part of the breast and don't hit the bone or you'll get an inaccurate reading.
Remember: Food still continues to cook and internal temps rise for quite a while after you remove from oven, fryer, etc.
PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes so that A. It finishes cooking and B. All those yummy juices that have been swimming around in the meat can settle down back where they belong, IN the meat. If you cut any meat before resting all that juiciness you worked so hard to maintain and have will be on the cutting board not in the meat and guess what?/ Dry Turkey.
When you roast the turkey, make sure it's on a rack so all the fats and juices that run into the pan don't soften the crispy skin. That's the base of your gravy.
Baste, baste, baste. But baste quickly so as to not drop the oven temp much or your cooking time will be off.
Now, the gravy:
Take your roasting pan and put it on the stove over 2 burners. On medium high heat throw in some nice white wine. Something you would drink. Please don't use "cooking wine" it's nothing more than a liquid salt lick and not wine at all. How much depends on how much pan drippings you have. Never use more wine than 1/4 the amount of drippings you have. Bring it to a boil and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. This is called deglazing. You have to let it boil for a while so the alcohol burns off. The stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan has the most flavor. Strain all that yumminess into a sauce pan. If you don't think what you have there will be enough for all your guests add either ready made gravy or my choice, stock. I always have home made stocks in my freezer. Once you have enough liquid take a tablespoon or two of cornstarch and dissolve it in cold water to make a thin paste. Turn up the heat on your gravy to boiling and drizzle in some of the cornstarch a little of the time whisking constantly until you get close to the desired consistency. Once you get there, turn the heat down and whisk every few minutes to keep skin from forming. The gravy will continue to thicken. If it gets too thick you can add more stock or water. season as desired.
Tomorrow we'll talk Stuffing/Dressings. My personal favorite part of the meal.