Tips for an exceptional Thanksgiving dinner culinary centerpiece
The arrival of November means, among other things, that it is time to start considering what you are going to prepare for your impending Thanksgiving feast and how you are going to prepare it. One of the traditional staples of Thanksgiving dinner is turkey, and while it may seem like a simple enough thing to prepare, it is nonetheless a cause of anxiety for those who have either had hiccups in years past or who have never prepared one before.
Generally, the most widely-recommended method for preparing a holiday turkey is roasting. It is a relatively simple endeavor that should result in a delicious bird that should satiate the appetites of everyone at your table and provide more than enough leftovers to provide sandwiches for days.
If you are still uncertain as to how to pull off a perfectly-roasted turkey, consider the following tips.
How to brine
MarthaStewart.com recommends soaking your turkey in a mixture of salt and water overnight to enhance the moisture of the meat, and adding aromatics to your brine solution if you want additional flavor notes. To make brine for an 18 – 20-lb. turkey, you will need 7 quarts of water and 1 1/2 cups of coarse salt at minimum. MarthaStewart.com’s recipe recommends bay leaves, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, crushed garlic and Riesling as just a few ingredients that can be added to the mixture for additional flavor, but you can ultimately make your mixture with any additives you choose. Place brine in a 5-gallon container lined with a large brining or roasting bag, submerge turkey, allow to sit overnight and remove from brine one hour before cooking.
Prep the turkey
Per Butterball.com, your first task will be draining any juices from the turkey and patting it dry. After this step is completed, place the turkey breast-up in a roasting pan, tucking the wings underneath the body. Season the surface of the bird with salt, pepper or any seasonings you prefer and dress the bird with vegetable oil.
According to Butterball.com, the overall weight of your fresh or thawed turkey will ultimately determine how much time it spends roasting. Whether you choose a regular or convection oven, you will want to set the temperature to 325 degrees.
In a regular oven, expect the following cooking durations for unstuffed turkeys of corresponding weights: 2 – 2.5 hours for 4.5 – 7 lb.; 2.5 – 3 hours for 7 – 9 lb.; 3 – 3.5 hours for 9 – 18 lb.; 3.5 – 4 hours for 18 – 22 lb.; 4 – 4.5 hours for 22 – 24 lb.; and 4.5 – 5 hours for 24 – 30 lb.
With a regular oven and a stuffed turkey, expect the following: 2.25 – 2.75 hours for 4.5 – 7 lb.; 2.75 – 4.5 hours for 7 – 9 lb.; 3.75 – 4.5 hours for 9 – 18 lb.; 4.5 – 5 hours for 18 – 22 lb.; 5 – 5.5 hours for 22 – 24 lb.; and 5.5 – 6 hours for 24 – 30 lb.
For unstuffed turkeys in convection ovens: 1.5 – 2 hours for 6 – 10 lb.; 2 – 2.5 hours for 10 – 18 lb.; 2.5 – 3 hours for 18 – 22 pounds; and 3 – 3.5 hours for 22 – 24 lb.
For stuffed turkeys in convection ovens: 1.75 – 2.5 hours for 6 – 10 lb.; 2.5 – 3.25 hours for 10 – 18 lb.; 3.25 – 3.75 hours for 18 – 22 pounds; and 3.75 – 4.25 hours for 22 – 24 lb.
If your turkey is frozen and stuffed, you can take it directly out of the freezer and pop it into a regular oven without waiting for it to thaw. For this kind of turkey, observe the following times relative to weight: 4 – 4.25 hours for 7 – 9 lb.; 4.25 – 5 hours for 9 – 12 lb.; and 5 – 6 hours for 12 – 14 lb.
Prior to placing your bird in the oven, insert a meat thermometer into its breast. You will know that the meat is adequately cooked when the temperature reads 165 degrees. Butterball.com also recommends placing tin foil over the breast and drumsticks when cooking is two-thirds of the way done in order to prevent overcooking.
Once the turkey is finished, move to a platter and let rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.
By following these instructions, you should have a turkey that is perfectly cooked and delicious in every way. If you are still uncertain, acquire the help of a parent or family member who has successfully prepared Thanksgiving meals in the past and ask for their input.