The turkey is the star of Thanksgiving dinner so you want to make sure you cook it right. Nothing is prettier than a golden brown bird at the center of the table surrounded by a rafter of side dishes. There are a million and one ways to cook a turkey but only a few that make it turn out just right. Keep these tips in mind when you are preparing the Thanksgiving bird.
Tip 1: Most turkeys come frozen at the grocery store so it is important to completely thaw the bird before roasting it. To safely defrost your turkey, keep it in the fridge for a couple of days before you have to prepare the big meal (roughly 4 pounds per day). This will help the turkey cook faster and evenly.
Tip 2: Forget filling the bird with stuffing. Not only does stuffing cooked inside the turkey usually turn mushy but it is also a safety hazard because of cross-contamination. There is no guarantee the stuffing will reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit by the time the turkey is finished cooking. To learn how to make golden brown and crisp stuffing on the side, click here.
Tip 3: Brine the bird. A simple brine of salt, sugar and peppercorns is enough to keep the turkey moist and flavorful while it roasts. The brine can be done the night before so that all you have to do in the morning is season and stick it in the oven. Click here for 10 brine recipe ideas.
Tip 4: Make sure the turkey is dry before going into the oven. If you have brined the turkey (as suggested in Tip 3), the skin will be wet. Use a paper towel to pat it down before it goes into the oven. This step will help the skin crisp and turn that irresistible shade of brown.
Tip 5: Use a meat thermometer. Turkey, just like chicken, has a small threshold from being juicy and delicious to dry and leathery. Invest in an instant read thermometer to monitor the cooking temperature and avoid overcooking your bird.