How To Prepare A Turkey

If you’re feeling intimidated by Thanksgiving dinner and the thought of roasting a turkey, don’t worry. Preparing a delicious turkey can be easier than you think, as long as you follow a few simple steps.

Before you begin, make sure you have all the necessary kitchen utensils and cooking materials. You’ll need a roasting pan with a rack, a baster, a meat thermometer, and aluminum foil. Also, purchase a turkey that is the appropriate size for your gathering- a good rule of thumb is to estimate 1 pound per person.

Now that you have everything you need, let’s get started on preparing your succulent turkey.

1. Thaw the Turkey

The first step in preparing a turkey is to thaw it completely. If you purchased a frozen turkey, it’s going to take some time to defrost. To properly thaw, place the turkey (unopened) in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw for one day for every four pounds of weight. If you don’t have that much time, you can thaw it in cold water (in its original packaging) by changing the water every 30 minutes, roughly 30 minutes for every pound of turkey.

2. Brine the Turkey

For a juicy and tender turkey, brining is key. Soaking the turkey in a solution of salt and water for several hours prior to cooking allows the turkey to absorb the flavors and moisture which in turn helps it to retain more of them whilst cooking.

To make the brine, mix one cup of kosher salt with one gallon of water. Submerge the turkey in the brine and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. Be sure to rinse the turkey inside and out before cooking.

3. Season the Turkey

Once the turkey is brined and rinsed, pat it dry with paper towels and then add additional seasonings according to your cooking preferences. Rub butter (or oil) over the entire turkey and season it with salt, pepper, and any additional herbs of your choice.

4. Stuff the Turkey

If desired, stuff the cavity of the turkey with a stuffing mixture before cooking. To ensure that the stuffing reaches a safe temperature, cook the stuffing outside of the bird as well and keep in mind that stuffing can affect the cooking time and temperature of the turkey.

5. Roast the Turkey

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, breast-side up. Tent the turkey with foil so that it doesn’t brown too quickly. Roast the turkey in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes per pound of turkey or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast meat registers 165°F.

About halfway through cooking, baste the turkey with the pan juices. Remove the foil tent during the last 45 minutes of cooking to allow the skin to brown. Let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes (loosely tented with foil) before carving and serving.

FAQs

Q: Is it necessary to truss the turkey?
A: Trussing the turkey is not necessary but can help the turkey cook evenly. If you decide to truss, tie the legs together and tuck the wings under the body using kitchen twine.

Q: How do I keep the turkey from drying out?
A: Brining the turkey before cooking will help it retain moisture, as will basting it periodically during cooking. Another great way to ensure the turkey stays moist is to roast it breast-side down for the first hour of cooking, and then flip it to continue roasting breast-side up.

Q: How can I tell if my turkey is done?
A: The only way to know for sure if your turkey is done is to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. The temperature should read 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the breast meat.

Q: What do I do with the leftover turkey?
A: There are countless ways to use leftover turkey! You can make sandwiches or salads with the meat, use it in soups or stews, or even make a turkey pot pie. The possibilities are endless!

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