Recipe Rescue: 24 Days of Thanksgiving; Turkey Questions Answered!
I don't know why, but that unassuming frozen bird causes so much grief every year. How big a turkey will feed everyone AND give us left overs? To Tent or Not? Is it safe to stuff the bird? How long do I cook it? How hot should the oven be? What does basting do and is it necessary? Okay, before I stress you out with all this potential turkey drama, let's just dig right in and answer your questions.
How Big of a Bird do I Need:
The old adage here is one pound per person. Then of course this changes from table to table. If you have light eaters or animals, growing boys or a lot of younger children. Another factor in the whole how big a bird should I get dilemma is leftovers. Do you want them? Oddly enough some families don't, so that is a valid question. I personally have never experience too many turkey leftovers nor has anyone ever gone hungry. Thanksgiving is in a field of its own, the only time you typically want a lot of leftovers. I always have to make sure everyone has some of everything to take home, but there better also be white meat left for me as I love turkey sandwiches. I am having 10 people over and one baby, I have a 21 pound bird and a 5 pound ham. No one is gonna go hungry! :)
How Long Will it Take to Thaw:
The first answer that comes to mind is longer than you ever think it will. The picture I chose for the overall look of this blog is of how NOT to thaw a bird. It takes a 20 pound bird a good 4 to even five days in the refrigerator to thaw. The refrigerator is the safest way to thaw the bird. If you find that the turkey is still frozen the night before you can submerge the turkey in cold water, make sure that the turkey is covered and you will need to change the water every 20 minutes. As the turkey starts to thaw the water will warm and that is a play date for bacteria. If on Thanksgiving morning you find the turkey to be 90% thawed, don't sweat it. I have cooked a turkey that was slightly "cold" before and it was fine. If this is the case though remember it may take a bit longer to cook.
How Long Do I Cook the Bird:
This answer is almost the complete opposite of thawing the bird. Meaning, the first thing that comes to mind is, not as long as you think. I don't buy into the breaking the bird up and cooking the white meat and dark meat separately to assure the white meat doesn't overcook. I have only once had a dry bird and Lord knows I made so much gravy it didn't matter. So back to the question at hand... when is the bird done? Typically your bird will take 2 1/2 to 3 hours for a 15 pound bird. Remove the bird once the thickest part of the breast reaches 160-165 degrees or the juices run clear when you make a small cut behind the largest part of the thigh. Remove the turkey from the oven, wrap in foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.
What Temperature Should I Roast the Turkey:
There are about a million and one answers to this question. Roast it high, roast it low... start high, start low... low and slow is the only way to go. It is all quite mind numbing. I have cooked my turkey at many different temps and have rarely seen a big change. Personally, I like the method of an famous Food Network smarty pants. It works for me and makes a lot of sense, after all I have always done my prime rib in a very similar manner, why not my turkey? Preheat the oven to 500, put your turkey on the bottom rack and cook for half an hour then foil tent the breast area and reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees.
Basting, Bags and Flipping, Oh My!
There are as many different methods of roasting a turkey as there are people on this planet, or at least it would seem. Basting the turkey seems like the greatest waste of time. In basting a turkey you won't add enough moisture to make your turkey dreamy juicy, in fact you will hinder your cooking times as opening the oven door constantly will throw off the temperature of the oven and mess with your overall cooking times. Bags, now that's a mixed bag. I have used a bag once and know people who swear by them. My turkey was juicy the year I used the bag, but it typically is, so for me I didn't really see the benefit of turning into stretch armstrong to get the big guy in the bag and I don't even want to relive the whole removing him from the bag ordeal. Flipping the bird interests me, but I have never tried it. The idea is to cook the bird breast side down for half the cooking time and then flip it right side up. Many have had great results using this method and every time I think I might try it, it sounds like a lot of fuss. If you try the flipping method, I would love an update.
Got questions before the big day, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org