How to Cook the Perfect Turkey
The turkey is the central element of any good Thanksgiving meal. An otherwise perfect meal can be ruined by a dry, overcooked turkey. Since this isn’t something we cook on a weekly basis, it’s not easy to pull off the perfect turkey…unless you follow these tips and the recipe below.
Start with a quality turkey. Yes, you can find off brand turkeys for quite a bit less, but keep in mind that a lot of the pounds you will be paying for will be saltwater that was injected in the turkey. Go ahead and buy the good stuff – You’ll be glad you did when you get all the praises for that delicious bird you fixed.
Thaw the turkey slowly in the fridge. Keep in mind during your planning stage that this will take several days. Doing this instead of submerging the bird in water is much gentler on the meat, resulting in a more tender finished product and is also much safer.
When you are ready to cook your turkey, remove the neck, giblets and anything else that may be stuffed in the chest cavity of your bird. Take some paper towels and pat your turkey dry.
Set it in a large roasting pan. If you prefer the breast meat on the dry end, place the turkey on its back. For moister breast meat, turn the turkey breast down.
Cut up a peeled onion, 3 stalks of celery and a few carrots. Big chunks are fine, since these vegetables are just for flavor. Stick them in the body cavity. They will infuse the bird with flavor as it cooks.
Melt a cup of butter in the microwave. Use a turkey baster to baste the turkey with butter. Don’t use all of it, just enough to get your turkey covered. Sprinkle the turkey with salt, pepper and any other seasonings you like.
Cook the turkey in a 325 degree oven. Baste it every 30 – 45 minutes with the juices that collect in the bottom of the roasting pan.
Here are some general guidelines for how long your bird should cook:
8 to 12 lbs. 2 ¾ to 3 hrs.
12 to 14 lbs. 3 to 3 ¾ hrs.
14 to 18 lbs. 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hrs.
18 to 20 lbs. 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hrs.
20 to 24 lbs. 4 ½ to 5 hrs.
Or cook until temperature on meat thermometer reaches 180 degrees (check in the thickest part, and in a couple different places) Don't overcook or it will be dry, but do make sure it is done.
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