Two simple ways to make your turkey better

Oct 3, 2018 | Chicken and Poultry, Cooking Tips

Thanksgiving day is almost upon us and that can only mean one thing; people are going to be eating a lot of dry ass turkey. It seems almost inevitable that by the time the turkey hits the table every last ounce of moisture will be cooked out of it. This leaves a table full of people thankful that they only have to eat turkey twice a year. But is this inevitable? Is there a way to have moist, tender turkey? Can it be cooked, and delicious? Well, there’s really only one way to find out.

It’s turkey time!

There are a few common mistakes that we all make that cause our turkeys to dry out. Today, we are going to talk about those mistakes. It’s my hope that we can all sit down to a delicious meal on Thanksgiving day without having to lube up every bite with gravy and cranberry sauce just so we can swallow it. So, what can we do to make our turkey delicious?

Stuffing

You’re not going to like this, but don’t stuff it. Stuffing your turkey does two things. Number one, stuffing creates a solid mass in the centre of your bird that slows down the cooking time. Number two, the internal stuffing has to be cooked to a temperature of at least 165°F in order for it to be safe to eat. By the time the centre of the stuffing reaches 165°F the turkey is going to be very overcooked.

You want the stuffing because it’s delicious. Well, cook it separately. Once the turkey is cooked use the fat in the bottom of the pan to moisten your stuffing (which is dressing if it’s not being cooked inside the turkey) and then bake. You will still get the turkey flavour, plus your turkey won’t have to be overcooked.

If I don’t fill my turkey with stuffing what should I do with the giant open cavity?

Well, there are a few options. First of all, leave it the hell alone. Don’t do anything. Leaving this cavity empty will allow heat to get inside the bird and it will cook in less time. I do recommend seasoning the inside of the turkey with salt, pepper, and herbs. This will flavour the meat from the inside out.

The other option that I really like is to loosely pack the turkey with onions, carrots, celery, fresh herbs and butter. This will add a pile of flavour to the finished bird. Having everything very loose in the bird will still allow it to cook from the inside out as opposed to having that solid mass of stuffing.

So, if you wanted a delicious turkey that isn’t overcooked, don’t stuff it!

Cooking the turkey

It is generally recommended that you cook your turkey to an internal temperature of 170°f in the breast and 180°f in the thigh. For unstuffed, this is going to take about 15 minutes per pound at 325°f. After the turkey is cooked, allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes if it’s under 10 lbs and 60 minutes if it’s over 10 lbs. This resting period is key. This allows all the internal juices to redistribute throughout the meat keeping the turkey moist and tender. While the turkey is resting, cover it loosely with foil so not too much heat is lost.

For really crispy golden skin make sure the surface of the turkey is dry when it goes into the oven. Just pat it dry with paper towels and season it as you normally would.

Depending on the size of your turkey, you may want to flip it halfway through cooking. If your turkey is giant you probably don’t want to do this, but if you have a bird that is around 10 lbs cook it for the first half breast side down. At the halfway mark flip the bird, maybe pat it dry again and re-season it. Finish cooking breast side up. This will keep the breasts really juicy.

 

For even more information on how to get the most out of your turkey check out this manual from the turkey growers of Canada.

 

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