5 Tips for the Best Turkey of Your Dang Life!
Don’t make a turkey drier than Grandma’s Kisses this year! Here are my five tips to get a perfect mother clucker every time!
1. DON’T STUFF THE TURKEY!
So, when it comes to actually cooking the dang thing, here is the number one rule you have to remember. I am sure you have heard this before. You may not believe it, and you may choose to ignore it, but we are pretty damn serious when we say…don’t stuff the turkey! The Turkey Shouldn’t Be Stuffed. DID I MENTION NOT TO STUFF THE DANG TURKEY?
Here’s why: When it’s cooked inside the turkey, the stuffing doesn’t cook evenly, and it doesn’t get all nice and crispy. Also, it takes longer to cook the stuffing to an appropriate temperature and by this time, you will have gone and burnt the sh!t out of your turkey and it will be drier than your chapped lips in a Chicago winter. Just cook the stuffing separately and spoon it into the cavity or a separate dish when you are ready to serve it.
2. SEASON THE TURKEY INSIDE, OUTSIDE AND UNDER THE SKIN
No matter what herbs and spices you decide to use, the best way to get tasty turkey is to generously season it everywhere possible. Remember to get everywhere and use enough seasoning. Listen, a 20-lb turkey is not a chicken breast and a teaspoon of salt and pepper sprinkled over the top is not gonna cut it. You’re gonna have to get a little dirty. Deal with it.
Generously rub salt and pepper inside the cavity, along with whatever other herbs and spices you’re using. Don’t be afraid to really get all up inside it.
In this next step, we want to be a little more tender and seductive. Gently push seasoned butter or olive oil under the skin of the breast, and around the thighs. You can use a thin silicon spatula, but I like to really show the bird some respect and use my bare hands to gently massage the meat. This not only flavors the turkey, but also helps keep it moist and juicy.
Lastly, give it a nice rub down before you send it packing into a hot oven. Rub the outside skin of the turkey with butter or oil, and season with salt and pepper.
By taking care of these three flavor areas, you are gonna get one flavorful mother clucker.
3. TIE IT UP AND COVER IT’S BREAST
A properly trussed turkey will go a long way to ensure a successful roasting, and result in a very attractive bird. These three steps are fast and easy, and make a huge difference. So don’t skip em.
Pull the wing tips forward and tuck them under the breasts so they don’t burn. This also keeps the turkey sitting nice and straight.
Tie the legs together with kitchen string. This important step will ensure even cooking, and a beautifully shaped turkey.
Loosely cover the breasts with a piece of foil. This will help keep the turkey moist, and prevent the breast from getting too brown. Remove the foil for the last hour of roasting to brown the skin.
4. COOK LOW AND SLOW IN A MOIST, AROMATIC OVEN
When you control the humidity, and the aromatics in the oven, you help to keep the mother clucker moist and flavorful as well.
Most meats cook better when they are at room temperature. So leave it out for about an hour before roasting to warm the bird up. To help infuse flavor, cut some veggies up and lay them on the bottom of the roasting pan. Cut two carrots, three to four stalks of celery, and an onion into large chunks. Place on the bottom of your roasting pan and place the turkey, breast side up, on top of the vegetables.
In order to keep the oven moist, add about a half-inch of equal parts stock (or broth) and white wine to the roasting pan. During the cooking process, you can use this liquid to baste the turkey. There will always be a debate about what basting the turkey actually does, but, screw it. Basting once an hour and once every half hour in the last hour of cooking, makes me happy and it makes the birdie’s skin look so nice. I love how it glistens in the light of the oven. Also, the vegetables and liquid combo make for an awesome gravy later on.
Start with the oven at 400 degrees for about 10- 15 minutes to help sear the meat. Then lower the heat to 325 degrees, for approximately 15-20 minutes per pound. Remember to take the foil off the breast in the last hour of cooking.
The most accurate way to make sure the turkey is done is with a meat thermometer. So make sure you get one! The turkey should register 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh meat. Here is an approximate cooking time guide for roasting at 325 degrees, so you know when you should begin to take it’s temperature:
|8 to 12 lbs.||2.75 to 3 hrs.|
|12 to 14 lbs.||3 to 3.75 hrs.|
|14 to 18 lbs.||3.75 to 4.25 hrs.|
|18 to 20 lbs.||4.25 to 4.5 hrs.|
|20 to 24 lbs.||4.5 to 5 hrs.|
5. GIVE IT A REST!
Now, if you’ve followed my instructions to the “T,” then that there piping hot turkey is gonna be the juiciest mother-clucker you ever did sink your teeth into. BUT WAIT!!!! There’s more. YOU MUST let the turkey rest for AT LEAST 20 minutes before carving. First, make sure you cover it loosely with some foil. Don’t you dare let me see you poking that bird (with a knife) for another 20 minutes. Don’t worry your pretty little brain, it ain’t gonna get cold. A covered 20-lb turkey will stay hot for over 40 minutes, so don’t rush it.
Leaving the turkey (or any meat for that matter) to rest not only gives you time to finish the gravy and the rest of the meal, but it allows the juices in the turkey to redistribute.
And that, my friend is the secret to moist, tender meat, every dang time. So, that’s how you make a perfect turkey. Good luck with that.