Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Let’s Talk Turkey

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Let’s talk turkey. It’s time to dispel the myth that turkey is dry. Oh it can be. Buy a cheap frozen bird, stick it in a hot oven and cook it to buggery. That’s how you get a dry turkey.

But we all prefer a moist, juicy and flavorful bird at our house, so I’m here to tell you how to get it.
I’ve mentioned before that the quality of the actual turkey itself is important to the outcome. I get my free range turkey from DiPaola Turkey Farm, which I pick up at the Union Square Greenmarket the day before Thanksgiving. If you have an opportunity to get a fresh, free range turkey, it is well worth the extra money. If you have already started thawing a frozen bird, there is still hope.

On Thanksgiving day, take the turkey from the refrigerator, rinse it inside and out, and pat it dry. There is usually a little bag of giblets, liver etc. inside the turkey. Make sure you take that out!!( Not to be vulgar, but check both ends for goodie bags.) You don’t want to cook a turkey that is still icy, so allow a good 20 minutes or so for the turkey to sit before cooking.

Rub the turkey with garlic and herb butter, making sure to slide a good amount between the skin and the meat. * Reserve some herb butter for the gravy. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you are stuffing the bird, do it now, making sure that the stuffing mixture is moist enough, so that it doesn’t try to draw all juices from the turkey while it cooks. Tuck the wings under and tie the legs with cooking twine if necessary. I usually make a ball of aluminum foil and tuck it at the outside of the cavity to keep the stuffing in, and prevent it from overcooking where it is exposed.

Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, and place a couple of stalks of celery, carrots and an onion, peeled and cut into large chunks. Add a little chicken or turkey stock to the pan, to get things started. Keeping the bottom of the pan moist throughout the cooking process not only gives you liquid for basting, but also creates delicious pan juices to make gravy with. ( We will talk about gravy tomorrow, so stay tuned!) We start the process with 1 cup of white wine, and 1 cup of broth in the pan.

Place the turkey in the oven and roast at 350 degrees. Roast for 1 hour, and then cover it  loosely with foil. Every hour or so, pour a little more broth and white wine over the turkey and continue to roast covered. Cook until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165 degrees. If it is not golden brown, remove the foil for the last 30-60 minutes of cooking.

Once the turkey’s internal temperature is reached, take it out of the oven, remove the stuffing, cover it with foil and allow it to rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
Do not throw away the pan juices or vegetables yet…we will use them for the gravy!Spoiler alert: Buy 2 pounds of mushrooms.

Place the stuffing in an oven proof dish and pop it back into the oven to keep warm.

A free range turkey is leaner and will cook faster than a conventional, previously frozen turkey. Don’t wait for the red timer to pop up before starting to check the temperature. By then, it could be over cooked! Start taking the turkey’s temperature at the earlier side of the estimated cook time, and judge from there. A good indicator of doneness is that the legs and wings should start to move freely and easily when jiggled, and the juices should run clear when the bird is pricked. A fresh, unstuffed turkey will take about 12 minutes per pound to cook, and a defrosted turkey could take closer to 20 minutes per pound. Allow a little extra cook time if the turkey is stuffed.

A guideline for roasting times:

10-18 pound turkey will cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours unstuffed, and about 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours stuffed.

18-22 pounds will take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours unstuffed and 4 1/2 to 5 hours stuffed.

22- 24 pounds will take about 4 to 4 1/2 hours unstuffed and about 5 to  5 1/2 hours stuffed.

Click here for our garlic and herb butter recipe, which can be make ahead. If you waited until the last minute to read this, you can use several cloves of finely minced raw garlic instead. It will mellow a bit as the turkey cooks.

Stay tuned for our gravy recipe. It’s worth waiting for!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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