Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Talking Turkey: Easy Peasy

It's almost Thanksgiving. Are you getting ready? I am getting pretty excited because the whole Thanksgiving weekend is just so very fun for our family. But, before we get to the fun, it will be time to cook. If you read this blog every now and then, you know I love to cook!

I also know there are LOTS of people who are worried about all this baking and cooking and sauteing and such. There are commercials showing harried women pulling gargantuan turkeys in and out of the oven with sweat on their weary brows. There are millions of magazine articles laying out complex turkey recipes with fruit and flavors that will send many women to the grocery store, hunting through stacks of specialty items. It all seems so hard. So overwhelming. With so much speaking to the craziness of it all, it must be really complex. Right?

Nah. Not at all. The truth of the matter is a turkey is really easy to make. Seriously.

So, here is a bit of self disclosure. When it comes to food, I am a bit of a purist. I love when a turkey tastes like a turkey. Do not look for pomegranate seeds in my stuffing. The straightforward flavor of the bird itself is the flavor of Thanksgiving to me. So, I will tell you what I do... but know that about me up front. That said, my turkey is never dry, always tastes good and receives rave reviews from my fam.

Wanna learn how? No stress, I promise.

First of all, gotta have a bird. I plan a pound per person plus a little bit more because I LOVE leftovers. So, count your folks and buy a bird. What bird? That is your call... but I sure love a Butterball.

Next, your bird needs to be defrosted by the time you are ready to cook. It's a tricky thing because it takes FOREVER to defrost. The Butterball website says to plan on putting your bird in the oven for one day for every four pounds. It always makes me nervous to keep poultry in my fridge that long so I prefer cold water thawing... 30 minutes per pound in the wrapper in cold water in your sink. If you don't want to thaw a turkey, you can always buy it fresh.

Now, to make the turkey, you want to be sure you sink and counters are CLEAN. I like to have a bleach spray on hand for cleaning up after preparing your bird. On your counter, put a pot, your roasting pan sprayed with Pam and with that string lifter thingy set inside, some salt (I like Kosher salt.) and some paper towels. Remember, you do not want to touch lots of stuff with turkey juice on your hands. Keep your food and your kitchen safe.

Start but putting the turkey in the sink and cutting open the wrapper. There will be juices. Don't freak out. :) While the bird is sitting in there, find the giblet bag(s). In the main opening of the turkey, there will likely be one. In the neck opening there might be another. Dump these into water in the pot on your sink. We will get back to that in a later blog.

To roast a turkey, you will need to rinse it out. You are going to get wet. It's okay. Stick your hand inside that big opening and feel around in there. There should not be lots of hanging things. If there are, pull them out. Run cold water through there and dump it out. Put your bird into the roasting pan, breast side up. Once it is in there, wash your hands with hot water and soap. Poultry is one of those things you gotta be careful with!

When you hands are clean, open the oil and then pour some salt into your hand. I put the salt in my right hand. I keep my left hand away from the bird for now. Stick your salty hand into that big opening in your bird and rub the salt all over inside. With your clean hand, grab the oil ( I use canola for this.) and rub the skin of the bird. Get it all over the turkey. Not gobs, just enough that it looks good and shiny. (Some folks use butter for this... that can totally work... but I use oil... I am always afraid that butter will burn. Now, wash your hands again.
Nothing too tricky yet, right? :)

Now, if you go to the Butterball site, they will tell you that you should preheat your oven to 325 degrees. I don't do that. I set my oven higher, to about 400 degrees. What I want is to get a good seal on the skin. Starting hot works for me.

So preheat your oven to whatever you choose. Take out the extra shelf and put your turkey in the oven. What about stuffing, you ask? We will talk about that in an upcoming blog. Also, crazy easy. But for today, let's set it aside.

I put the turkey in the oven and let it start roasting away. When I start to smell turkey smells in my house, I go and check on the bird. If there is a little color on the skin, I lower the temperature to 325 degrees. (Probably about 30-45 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower.
Is it covered?

Is it in a baking bag?

Do I put on a lid?
Heaven's no! I don't like a soggy bird. I don't want to steam it, I want to roast it. But do what works for you. :) Some folks swear by those methods... and some of it works great. You need the turkey to taste the way Thanksgiving tastes to you.

Now, the bird will cook for a while. I do baste it from time to time but I think that has more to do with my feeling like I have to DO something than any need the bird has. I have a great baster from Pampered Chef that I just love to use.

The other thing I love to do is add cans of turkey or chicken broth to the roasting pan while it roasts. You don't have to do this but the canned broth tastes so much better if it has been cooking with the drippings from the bird. What difference does it make? None. Unless you want gravy. I know I do! And I like to have plenty of gravy. After all, there will certainly be leftovers!

You will follow the roasting guide that comes with your turkey or find another one here. But, don't ignore the turkey to pay attention to the clock. If my turkey skin starts to get really brown, I make a tent out of foil and put it over my bird. No matter how the bird looks, it is not done until it registers 180 degrees deep in the thigh. If you haven't already, go ahead and buy a meat thermometer. They are handy to have anyway.

Here is the thing. It's cooked or its not. You have to be sure that it is. The juices should run clear. If they are red at all, your turkey is not cooked. Not sure what color they are? Let them run into a spoon. Red drippings mean the meat is not safe to eat. Keep roasting it.

(BTW, I have mistakenly taken the turkey out too soon. I don't recommend it. I finished the cooking, after slicing, in the microwave but it was not nearly as good as keeping it in the oven the right amount of time.)

When you finally get the right temperature, pull that turkey out and let it sit a while. It will not cool off. You have time, lots of time! Don't even think about it again until you are almost ready to eat. Get everything else ready. Then slice the turkey and take it right to the table. I am not the queen of slicing... but I work it out anyway. Sometimes, you will have someone sharing Thanksgiving dinner with you who loves to slice. If so, let them do it! :)

So, lets review:

How to Roast a Turkey in 50 Words or Less!

1. Buy a turkey.

2. Defrost said turkey.

3. Rinse your bird.

4. Put in pan

5. Salt your bird.

6. Oil the skin.

7. Calculate roasting time.

8. Heat oven.

9. Put bird in.

10. Let it cook.

11. Baste if you wanna.

12. Check the temperature.

13. Take it out if done.

12. Let it sit.

13. Cut it up.

15. Feast!
Not too tricky, huh?

Once you get the hang of it, you can try other stuff... but first just master the basic deal. Serving the turkey just like this will have your guests going on and on about how amazing you are. I promise. It doesn't take much to make people happy. :) And after hours of smelling that bird roasting away, they are ready to enjoy the meal.

The holidays can be stressful. There are a million things to take care of and so much cooking to do. But, dear friends, do not buy into the common theory that the turkey is what is going to be hard. It really isn't. It is just as easy as roasting a chicken... and if you haven't done that before, you can use these directions to get it done.

Now, let's share some tips! What do you like to add to your bird that makes it taste like Thanksgiving to you? Or, share what dish has to be on that table, beside the bird! I would love to hear your thoughts! I am always looking for new ideas.

Just remember this... the Thanksgiving turkey? Easy peasy. Give it try! I will post about stuffing and gravy soon so be sure to stop by again!

Blessings on your day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post to a newbie who will likely host for the first time soon! Thanks for making it sound so easy, we'll see.