Top 7 tips for cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey
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Ruining the Thanksgiving Day turkey is one of the most feared holiday disasters. Here are some tips to help you prepare a tasty, beautiful bird.
Get the right size
Larger birds have a larger meat ratio. A turkey weighing under 12lbs. will serve one person per pound, so a 10 lb. turkey for 10 guests. A turkey weighing more than 12 lbs. will serve about one person per each 3/4 pounds or a 15 lb. turkey for 20 guests.
Thaw for safety
Food safety should be your number one concern here. NEVER thaw your turkey at room temperature. Thaw your bird in the refrigerator and figure about 24 hours per 5 lbs. In an emergency situation, you may thaw your plastic-wrapped bird, breast side down, in a sink of cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. This should take about 30 minutes per pound.
Golden brown but not dried out
Placing a foil tent over the turkey as it is cooking will prevent the turkey from browning. Remove the tent during the last 30-45 minutes to allow your turkey to get the beautiful golden-brown color.
Cook for the right amount of time
The general rule is to cook your thawed turkey at 350°F for 20 minutes per pound, but that depends on several circumstances, including whether you have stuffed the bird and whether your oven is calibrated correctly. It’s best to invest in a quick-read thermometer. When the temperature of the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast reads 165°F, the turkey is safe to eat.
Let your turkey rest
You have to let your turkey rest for 20-30 minutes after you take it out of the oven or all your hard work will be wasted. Letting it rest allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, keeping it juicy and allowing it to be carved much easier.
To baste or not to baste
Basting a turkey will never make it moister. It may promote even browning of the skin, but it will prevent the crisping up of the skin, which to some is the best part! And be aware that brushes and bulb basters can be sources of bacteria.
To stuff or not to stuff
For optimum safety, the USDA recommends not stuffing a turkey. If you do, the stuffing should also reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Chilled stuffing in a turkey will not reach a safe temperature before the turkey is done. You can save some time by making bread cubes ahead. Stuffing baked in a casserole dish can be prepared in advance and chilled. Baking time will need to be increased by about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow about 3/4 cup stuffing for each pound of turkey.