(Encore from last year by request)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with these famous TV chefs and their elaborate instructions for making the perfect holiday turkey. Folks, it doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating. About the only thing I agree with them on is the use of a good thermometer. Here is how I cook my holiday turkey, and it’s always moist and delicious.
First, buy the smallest turkey possible. If you’re having lots of guests, buy two small turkeys or one turkey and a breast. Be sure to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator completely, which can take several days. When I cook the turkey on Thanksgiving (or Christmas) morning, I’ve already prepped it the night before by removing the giblets (and whatever else is stuffed in its cavity) and patting the skin dry with paper towels.
I preheat the oven to 325°, sprinkle salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning on the outside and inside the cavity, stick an onion quarter and celery stick inside, then get my roasting pan ready. I use a stainless steel covered roasting pan, but one of those roasting bags works great, too. In the bottom of the roasting pan I build a “rack” of celery, onion, and carrots. I place the turkey (breast side up) on the vegetables (They keep the bird elevated from the bottom of the pan, but you may also use a roasting rack if you have one). Then I pour about three cups of water into the bottom of the pan around the bird. This water steams the turkey to keep it moist and later becomes the drippings for your gravy.
I don’t stuff the bird with anything else but fresh herbs. It’s easier to make the dressing the day before using chicken stock or broth. Then I pop it in the oven to finish after I’ve cooked the turkey. Leftover dressing has a longer and safer storage life if it isn’t cooked inside the bird.
Don’t worry about stuff like starting out at a high temperature to brown the turkey’s skin or rubbing butter beneath the skin. If you cook low and slow, the bird won’t dry out. As for the skin, you shouldn’t be eating it, anyway! It’s loaded with saturated fat you don’t need. You should skin the bird before you carve it to serve.
Cook the turkey for twenty minutes per pound but pull the roaster from the oven early to test the temperature. If it’s at least 160° inside temperature, take the roasting pan out, keep it covered, and set it somewhere to “rest” for at least half an hour, or until internal temperature reaches 180°F. Residual cooking will bring the turkey meat to the desired temperature without overcooking it.
How simple is that? Good luck and happy Thanksgiving!
UPDATE: I followed these instuctions except omitted the water and the bird turned out great. So the addition of water for steaming is optional. There is enough liquid from the vegetables to create steam.