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Tips for the turkey


I have to be honest, I have a hard time handling meat. I could be a vegetarian tomorrow and not really notice. I don’t know what it is, but I would be lying if I said I was a meat specialist of some kind, I’m not.

That being said, I get a lot of compliments on my turkey every year, so I thought I would share what I do. It’s nothing special, so all you first time cooks can try it out. All you specialty chefs may be bored, or if you’re anything like my husband (who fancies himself as quite the cook), you’ll love it for the simplicity.

First, picking the turkey. I usually go for about 1/2 pound a person. So if you’re having 12 guests, the smallest turkey you’ll probably be able to find is about 10 pounds. That’s more than enough.

Please keep in mind that the label “fresh” is practically meaningless — sorry, but it’s true. All that means is that the turkey was never frozen, but kept at around 26 degrees or so, to keep it “fresh.” However, the turkey may have actually been “prepared” up to two months earlier.

My very strong recommendation is to make sure you buy an organic turkey — a label that does mean something. If you can find free-range as well, go for it. It’s another tricky label, as it may only mean the turkey had access to an open door to wander, but it’s better than having one that was caged for its entire life. If you can go to a specialty shop, do it. You will taste the difference in your turkey and so will your guests.

If you do go for a frozen turkey, make sure you start to defrost it in the fridge the day before – nothing worse than realizing your turkey is still frozen when you need to put it in the oven!

I cook the turkey forever. I’m not kidding. For a dinner at 7:00pm, I’ll put a 15 pound turkey in the oven at 10:00am. I do stuff the turkey with my favorite stuffing that I make the night before. For the average 10 to 12 pound turkey, I would start at around 11:00am.

Quick Tip: Stuff the neck of the turkey to make it round and full looking. It adds a lot of flavor to the breast meat, keeps it moist and it makes the turkey look much prettier for your guests. Also, place the stuffing in between the legs of the turkey, as that will be safe to eat and it adds a beautiful look to the turkey.

Place the turkey in its pan and rub it with butter. Add salt and pepper to the top of the bird and rub evenly. If you are having many guests, pour some organic chicken stock into the bottom of the pan. The natural drippings from the turkey will fall into that, and you’ll have just a little bit extra gravy for later. Plus, it adds great flavor to the turkey itself as the broth cooks the turkey.

If you’d like your gravy to be a little bit spicy (my husband’s addition, it’s actually good!), just add a few red pepper flakes to the broth as you put it in the oven. Place some foil over the legs of the bird when you first put it in the oven. It will keep them from browning too much. I usually take the foil off after the first three hours.

Cooking Instructions:

Put the bird in the oven at 375° for the first hour.
Lower the temperature to 225° for about four more hours.
Finally, lower the temperature to 175° for the last four hours.

I told you I wasn’t kidding. The longer you cook the turkey, the juicier it will be. It’s a wonderful surprise for your guests to taste turkey that isn’t dry, that is cooked through and that falls right off the bone. It’s wonderful. Now with all of this slow roasting, it’s very important to make sure the turkey is fully cooked. Slide a knife into the side of the breast and make sure you don’t see any pink. If you do, raise the temperature to about 350 degrees and cook for another 20 minutes. (With this many hours in the oven, I’ve never actually had this happen, but it’s very important to always check.)

Take the turkey out of the oven about an hour before you serve it to let it rest. It’s a beautiful site for your guests to see as they’re enjoying appetizers and starting up conversations. After it’s been out of the oven for about 40 minutes, cut a slit in the skin that connects the legs to the body. This will release a lot of the extra juice for your gravy. Let that sit for a good 10 minutes before you drain the pan to make your gravy. It’s good to let the turkey rest for that first 40 minutes so the meat is resting in all of it’s juice, anything to not serve a dry turkey, right?

Carve the turkey as you like, saving just a little bit of juice to pour over the turkey once it’s carved and on a platter. You may discard the stuffing that was in the bird if you choose — most health experts recommend you don’t eat it. Place a little sprig of thyme or parsley on the platter for effect.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

(As always with poultry, please handle the raw turkey carefully, make sure you wash your hands after touching the meat and always use paper towels to try the turkey after washing it, so you can throw them away immediately. Always wash down any surface that the raw meat touches.)

Author: Sarah

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