Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Step #3- For all things turkey, come inside...

There are many websites online that give you pointers, thawing times, roasting times, etc., so I decided to consolidate all my turkey information into 1 spot- my blog. Here are the answers to questions I had when researching the who/what/when/where/why's of turkeys.

How much turkey should I buy?
I like to allow 1.5-lb of turkey per person.

Fresh or frozen turkey?
The turkey will take the center stage at your Thanksgiving feast, so select the bird with care. For the most delicious results, buy a fresh turkey rather than a frozen one. Organic and free-range birds are raised on natural feed and allowed to roam, which gives the meat a better flavor. Fresh birds are also moister than frozen ones.

If you decide to buy a frozen turkey, make sure to give it ample time to thaw out. Here is my turkey schedule.

Thawing your turkey
Refrigerator Thawing- Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds

  • Keep the turkey in its original wrapper
  • Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak
  • A thawed turkey can remain in the fridge for 1-2 days
Cold Water Thawing- Allow 45 minutes per pound

  • Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping
  • Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water
  • Change the water every 30 minutes
REMINDER: Remove the giblets from the cavity after thawing.

What is "brining"?
To ensure an exceptionally moist, flavorful turkey, brine the bird before roasting. Brining enhances the taste of the turkey while keeping the meat tender and juicy during its long roasting.

A brining solution combines water with salt and often other flavourings, such as sugar, herbs, spices, and garlic. Mix the brining ingredients with hot water to dissolve the salt, then let the mixture cool completely before adding the turkey. As the turkey soaks, the salt penetrates the meat, drawing in moisture and other seasonings. (You can find many recipes online for homemade brine recipes, and many specialty stores, such as Williams-Sonoma, make excellent brines pre-packaged for you.)

To read about my first brining experience, please click HERE.

To see the (excellent) recipe I used with my brined turkey, click HERE.

How do I truss (or tie) a turkey?
A great and easy how-to video is located HERE.

How long do I roast a turkey?
Allow 12-15 minutes per pound.
Roast until the breast reaches 165 degrees F, and the thigh reaches 175 degrees F.

Unstuffed turkey
4-8# (breast only)- 1-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours
10-12# (5-6kg)- 2-1/2 to 3 hours
12-14# (6-7kg)- 2-3/4 to 3-1/4 hours
14-16# (7-8kg)- 3 to 3-3/4 hours
16-18# (8-9kg)- 3-1/4 to 4 hours
18-20# (9-10kg)- 3-1/2 to 4-1/4 hours
20+# (20kg)- 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours

Basting basics
Baste the turkey with pan drippings, stock, cider, or melted butter about every 30 minutes during roasting. This helps ensure moist, juicy meat and a crisp, golden-brown skin. A bulb baster is the best tool for this task. (I bought mine at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $6.)

If the turkey gets too brown too quickly in the roasting process, tent your turkey with aluminum foil.

Roasting tips
You want your breast meat to reach 165 degrees, while your thigh reads at 175 degrees, but to be out of the oven and fully cooked at the same time. For uniform roasting, try these simple techniques:

For an unstuffed turkey
Some cooks roast their turkey breast-side down for the first 1/3 of the cooking time. This increases the rate at which the thighs cook, so they will be done at about the same time as the breast.

For a stuffed turkey
Loosely cover the breast with a double-thick piece of aluminum foil for the first 2/3 of the cooking time. This slows the rate at which the breast cooks, so it will be done at about the same time as the thighs.

Testing for doneness
A simple way to determine when your turkey is properly cooked is to use a probe thermometer. (I purchased this.) The digital display is connected to a metal probe that stays in the meat while it roasts, so you can check the progress without opening the oven door and letting heat escape. Because the temperature readout is continuous, it's easy to tell when your turkey is approaching the ideal degree of doneness. Place it in the turkey at the start of the cooking cycle.

If you're using an instant-read thermometer, begin testing for doneness 30 minutes to 1 hour before the total roasting time is reached.

** If do allow your turkey to rest for 20-30 minutes, keep it covered in aluminum foil after it's removed from the oven. Allowing it to rest allows the juices to re-distribute into the meat, yield a juicy turkey, and makes it easier to carve. The bird will continue to cook as it's sitting there due to residual heat; thus, pull your turkey out when the thigh registers @ 180 degrees and the breast @ 161 degrees. Within 30 minutes, the bird's temperature will raise 5-10 additional degrees.

** Also, if you stick a fork in the meat and the juices run clear, the bird is done.

Where do I place the meat thermometer for an accurate reading?
Insert the thermometer into the thickest parts of the breast and thigh, away from the bone. Click HERE for a great video that shows you close-up where you should stick your thermometer (fast forward to 4:15 towards the end of the video).

How can I store left-overs?
Debone the turkey and refrigerate all leftovers in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days, gravy within 1-2 days, or you can freeze these foods. Reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees or until hot and steaming.

Source: A compilation from Williams-Sonoma 2009 Thanksgiving catalog and USDA FSIS

Here are my quick links for Thanksgiving turkey:


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