A Guide to Cooking a Turkey Without All of the Stress
Don't be intimidated by a turkey!
15 July 2013
Turkey, it’s one very very large bird. The sheer size of it is enough to put even the bravest of cooks off. However, no Christmas dinner is complete without it. Yes there are the trimmings, the mashed potato, yams, brussles sprouts in sage and butter, but none of them make as big an impression on the guests as that glorious golden stuffed bird does.
The turkey is actually quite easy to do and to get right, just make sure that there is enough to go around (remember seconds and thirds!!) We have top tips for making Christmas this year turkeylicious.
Many people complain that turkey is too dry and not very tasty. Our top tips will ensure a juicy Christmas turkey this year. If dry breasts worry you, try placing aluminium foil over the breasts for some of the cooking process or cook the turkey breast side down for a bit of the cooking time. This will help keep the white meat moist while the remainder of the bird cooks through.
Tip 1: Choose your bird
This may sound silly at first but make sure that the turkey fits into your oven. Measure your oven, measure the turkey and ensure that they are compatible. Decide whether you will purchase a frozen or fresh turkey. Frozen turkey tends to be drier as all the natural juices are crystallized during the freezing process. However, they are also the easiest and cheapest. Allow one pound raw meat per guest when purchasing the turkey. A ten pound bird is enough for 10 guests.
Tip 2: Prep the turkey
Defrost: There are many ways to prepare the turkey before cooking it. Firstly ensure that it is completely defrosted. The best way to do this is to remove all the packaging and cover the bird with foil. Leave it in the bottom of the fridge over one or two days, once it has defrosted the innards can be removed. Time management is the most important thing in cooking a turkey; remember that the preparation can begin two days ahead of cooking in order to allow the bird to defrost. That way the cook has time to enjoy with family and friends in a relaxed state, instead of running around like a hot mess.
Brine: In order to keep the moisture, brine the bird 6-12 hours before cooking. This will help moisten and flavor the meat. To make the brine mix one cup of salt into two gallons of water, add a half cup of sugar (this step is optional, but highly recommended as it helps counteract the salt). Ensure that the salt and sugar are dissolved completely, than add any herbs and spices of your choice to the brine. Add ice, once it is iced pat the defrosted turkey dry and make sure that the innards are removed. Submerge the turkey breast side down ensuring that the liquid fills the cavity. Refrigerate overnight. Wash the bird well after it has been removed from the brine, if it is not washed thoroughly the turkey will be too salty. Pat it dry and it is ready to be cooked.
Allow the turkey to come to room temperature before putting it in the oven.
Butter: Mix sage, rosemary and flat leaf parsley with butter. Using the fingers separate the skin from the meat gently and rub the butter mixture between the meat and skin. This will ensure flavour and moisture, do not go overboard with the butter as it could turn the meat greasy, just a light film is enough. Some cooks prefer to rub their turkey with olive oil, but this will not give it as much flavour as the butter. Calories also take a Christmas break so don’t be afraid to pat the skin dry and rub a bit of olive oil over the skin to ensure extra crispiness, YUM!
Tip 3: Stuffing
Nothing beats home-made stuffing. Make the perfect traditional stuffing separately and stuff the bird after it has cooked or serve it individually. This is the best option as there is a chance that bacteria in cavity can grow during the cooking process. Instead stuff the bird with any number of the following things to ensure flavor and moisture; use fruits, vegetables or herbs and some wine in the breast cavity to maintain the moisture of the bird. A fail safe is to stuff the cavity with some garlic cloves, an onion (or two), some fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage or thyme (hard herbs) and even half an orange (or lemon). Don’t be shy, pack it all in there.
Tip 4: Cooking time
Allow 20 minutes per pound for the turkey when roasting it. Make sure to use a meat thermometer when cooking the turkey. The thermometer should reach 165°F or 73°C when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh to indicate that it is done. Ensure that the thermometer does not touch the bone as this will give a false temperature reading.
Tip 5: Changing the temperature
Preheat the oven to 240°C. Place the turkey in the oven for 20-30 minutes depending on its size. Once the bird is browned cover just the breasts in tinfoil to protect them from drying out and reduce the heat to 180°C. This step in not necessary and some cooks say that it will not make the breast any more moist.
Alternatively cover the entire turkey with tinfoil and place it in the oven at 180°C. Remove the tinfoil an hour before the bird finishes cooking. This will ensure a crispy skin at the very end.
Tip 6: Basting
The turkey should be basted every 20-25 minutes. While basting is great, over-basting is not. This can cause the skin to go soggy and, besides that, every time the oven door is opened heat escapes, this can lead to extra cooking time or an underdone turkey.
Tip 7: Give it a break
Allow the turkey to take a thirty minute nap before serving. This lets the bird soak up extra juiciness. A juicy bird is more important than a hot bird.
Use all of our great tips to ensure an easy going, stress free turkey dinner this year. Whether it is a Christmas celebration, a Thanksgiving eve or a turkey surprise for the family these seven tips should keep the cook in tip top shape and the turkey faultless.