The All-Too Common Mistakes People Make With Thanksgiving Turkey

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The problem with cooking up a Thanksgiving turkey is that there aren’t many opportunities to practice. The need for making a huge bird actually goes but once( perhaps twice) a year. It’s a big chore, and there is a lot to consider.

Learning how to cook a turkey is not something you want to approach nonchalantly you’re going to want to do your homework so as not to commit one of the many mistakes that are all too common gone Thanksgiving. Lucky for you, everything you need to know is right here. We’re presenting all the ways a turkey can go wrong in your kitchen and how to these blunders can be easily avoided. It’s really easy once you know what you’re doing, promise.

Read up, and you’ll be fine come the big day.

* Note: The USDA recommends all turkeys be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum safety. You’ll notice below that we often indicate removing the bird from the oven when it reaches 160, but that’s because the bird’s temperature will continue to rise to 165( or above) after you remove it from the oven. Just make sure it ultimately reaches 165.

1 It’s hard to know when the turkey is done.

Alamy

Alamy

It’s time to get yourself a trusty instant-read thermometer and take the turkey’s temperature. Just insert a meat thermometer into the area where the thigh and breast fulfill — it should register when it’s collected from the oven, and after it has rested. If you’ve stuffed the bird, take the temperature of the stuffing( 160 to 165 degrees F also ). You can also make an incision where the thigh and breast fulfill — if the juices operate clear , not red, then the bird is done. Whatever you do, don’t rely on those plastic pop-up timers that are stuck in the bird — all they do is let you know your bird is dry and overcooked( most of them don’t pop up until the temperature reaches 180 degrees F !). One great contraption for perfect turkey-cooking is a probe-style thermometer, which you can leave in the bird, leading out a wire to a showing that they are able to signal once the bird is done.

2 The turkey is dry and flavorless.

Aimee Herring

Becauseturkeys are usuallya very lean bird, and previously frozen turkeys tend to lose their moisture when you defrost them, it’s important to boost the flavor.Brining is the best answer. A brine is basically water seasoned with salt, herbs and/ or spices — use it to add flavor and moisture to your bird. It may take a little extra work, but brining a turkey overnight allows the bird to absorb all the flavor out of the brine. Then just dispose any remaining liquid and pat the turkey dry before preparing it for the oven.

Basting is the second-most important thing you can do to keep the turkey from drying out. After the turkey has been roasting 1-1/ 2 hours, begin basting the turkey with a hot stock flavored with wine and herbs( you won’t have any drippings yet ). Once the bird begins to give off juices, use those drippings to brush the bird sporadically, about every 30 minutes. Eventually, you’ll get great-tasting pan drippings, which you can use to induce gravy. Be sure to stop basting at least an hour before the turkey is done to prevent soggy scalp. Watch this video for more on basting .

3 The turkey looks pale and flabby.

Aimee Herring

A beautifully browned bird is impressive and savor pretty amazing. If you’re having trouble getting a golden brown scalp, there are a few things you can do. Before you put the bird in the oven, scratch the skin with soft butter or olive oil — lots of it. This will help the scalp brown better and it will make it taste good. Also, don’t forget to baste the bird. Another unique technique that helps create a brown scalp is the cheesecloth technique. Basically dip the cheesecloth in your basting liquid and drape it over the bird. During roasting, baste the bird as usual — the cheesecloth will turn nearly black. Remove it once the turkey is done and you will be left with the most glorious crackling scalp in a tint of mahogany.

4 The turkey is burning.

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Aluminum foil is your friend. If you notice that the turkey is browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil to redirect the heat away from the scalp. You might have to pick off some extra-black scalp, but at least you’ve prevented a disaster.

Some cooks like to prevent this altogether by roasting the bird tented with aluminum foil during the first half of cooking time. Another technique is to roast the bird upside down( with the breast down) for the first half of cooking time and then flip it over onto its back to finish roast, but don’t induce yourself crazy attempting that with a giant bird.

5 The turkey is still frozen.

Aimee Herring

This is a problem, but it happens all the time. What you really required was a look at a defrosting chart before the big day — some birds take days to defrost — but if pressed for time you can always turn to the microwave oven.

6 There aren’t enough pan drippings to induce gravy.

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This is a travesty and a result of not basting properly.( This might occur when you’re roasting just a breast and not the entire bird .) In other terms, don’t forget to baste!

You can always make a stock out of the giblets and neck. Use the stock for moistening the stuffing and for constructing gravy. See this video on how to induce gravy .

7 The turkey is cooked unevenly.

Flickr: chooyutshing

An unevenly cooked turkey is almost always a result of not trussing properly — or an oven that doesn’t cook evenly.

Large poultry should always be trussed( i.e. tied up ). All the technique requires is tying up the turkey with kitchen twine. This ensures even cooking because it pulls the wings and legs toward the body of the bird, preventing them from splaying outward. This allows the hot air in the oven tocirculate easier

If you believe your oven doesn’t heat evenly, try rotating the roasting pan a couple of times during cooking. And use an oven thermometer to tell what the temperature is. The oven should be set to between 325 and 375 degrees F.

8 The turkey is undercooked.

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Turkeys come in all shapes and sizes, which entails each one will have a different cook time. Choice the bird that’s the best fit for the size of your gathering. Click here to watch a guidebook .~ ATAGEND

And don’t rely on the exterior of your turkey to tell that it’s done. You should always take its internal temperature by sticking the thermometer into the thigh, just between the thigh and the breast — make sure the thermometer doesn’t touch the bone. The temperature should register 160 degrees F.( Don’t forget to take the temperature of the stuffing — it should also register the same .) Take the turkey out and tent it with foil for about 15 to 20 minutes for a small bird and 20 to 30 minutes for a large one. This period of resting allows the juices to redistribute in the bird( and also allows the temperature to be submitted a few degrees, preferably to around 165 degrees F ).

9 The turkey falls apart when I engraving it.

Ray Kachatorian

Carving tableside might beimpressive, but it’s not the best way or place to carve a turkey. You actually need a engraving committee and a good engrave knife. To get a good carve, place your bird on a sturdy engraving committee with a trough to catch all the juices. Start by removing any trussing twine. Begin by removing the leg, the wings and the breasts. The meat should be sliced across the grain on a diagonal to induce feeing easier. See a step-by-step guide on how to carve a roasted turkey here .

10 Not sure what to do with the innards.

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Whatever you do, don’tforget to remove the gizzards, heart, liver, kidneys and neck from the turkey cavity. You don’t want to roast the turkey with the innards inside( especially if they’re in plastic bags !).

Instead, use them to induce stock, which in turn can be used for moistening stuffing or for gravy. Some people choose to roast or saute the giblets and neck beforehand and then make a stock from the roasted meat. This will give you a much deeper flavor. Make sure not to roast the liver or include it in your stock — liver will turn your stock cloudy. Chop the liver and add it to the stuffing, for extra heartiness.

11 To stuff or not to stuff?

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Stuffed turkey is traditional, but that doesn’t mean you have to stuff your bird. Many people actually favor stuffing or garmenting baked separately from the bird. It can actually develop a nice crust instead of remaining soggywhich happens when it’s cooked inside the bird.

If you’ve chosen not to stuff, know that the bird will roast faster, but don’t leave the cavity empty. Add some herbs, perhaps half a lemon, and/ or an apple — these aromatic ingredients lend the bird lovely flavor. If you’ve chosen to stuff the bird, make sure you do it just before the turkey goes into the oven, otherwise, if done too early, the stuffing will absorb bacteria from the cavity. Make sure to pack the stuffing loosely — do not compact the concoction or it won’t cook properly. Take the temperature of the stuffing , not just the bird. The temperature should register between 160 and 165 degrees F. to stuff, know that the bird will roast faster, but don’t leave the cavity empty. Add some herbs, perhaps half a lemon, and/ or an apple — these aromatic ingredients lend the bird lovely flavor. If you’ve chosen to stuff the bird, make sure you do it just before the goes into the oven, otherwise, if done too early, the stuffing will absorb bacteria from the cavity. Make sure to pack the stuffing loosely — do not compact the concoction or it won’t cook properly. Take the temperature of the stuffing , not just the bird. The temperature should register between 160 and 165 degrees F.

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