Tender Juicy Turkey

How do you cook your turkey?

A fun tradition in some kindergarten and first grade classes is writing about Thanksgiving dinner.  The children write how they obtain and cook their turkey dinner.  The answers are varied and usually very humorous.

My daughter wrote that she would find a turkey in someone’s backyard.  (On a drive, we saw turkeys wandering around in a neighborhood yard). Another kid said they would get a turkey from a tree.  However, most kids wrote that their turkeys came from a store.

Even at a young age, kids disagree about the proper way to cook a turkey.  Some take it to a restaurant to be cooked, others cook it in the barbecue.  But the most popular method seems to be cooking the turkey in the oven. Most little kids seem to agree that 5-10 minutes is the proper cooking time for a turkey.  🙂  Although, one kid did say he would cook it in the microwave for 5 hours after it cooked in the oven.

If you search for the best way to cook a turkey, you will see that adults also have varied opinions.

Last year before Thanksgiving, I stood staring in front of a grocery store freezer full of frozen turkeys, wondering which turkey would turn out tasty.  My last turkey was dry and stringy, and so were the week of leftovers.   Consequently, I was beginning to consider just leaving all the turkeys at the store.

While I stood there staring at the turkeys, the butcher came up and asked if I needed help.  I explained my dilemma, and he told me the price of hamburger was five times as expensive as turkey, and I really ought to stock my freezer with turkey because it was an inexpensive protein source.  If my turkey didn’t taste good, I was cooking it wrong.  So, I listened to his cooking advice and ended up putting two, 20 pound turkeys in my shopping cart.

The result?  The best turkey I have ever eaten.  My husband even said the white breast meat was good.

So, what did I do?

  1. Brine the thawed turkey overnight (or 12-24 hours).  Use a turkey baking bag, inside a large stock pot, to brine the turkey, and it will still fit in the fridge.  (The bag holds the brine right around the turkey.  Since I use less liquid, I half the brine recipe).  When you are ready to put it in the oven, rinse the turkey with clean water.
  2. Rub the turkey with canola oil.  Don’t stuff the bird, cook the stuffing in a casserole dish when the turkey comes out of the oven.
  3. Cook the turkey breast-side-down.  It helps the white meat stay moist.  Don’t use  bags or foil otherwise you will steam the turkey.
  4. Roast in a preheated, 475°F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on the size of your turkey).  This browns and crisps up the turkey skin. (Warning–it does make a mess in your oven, but it is worth it.)
  5. Decrease heat to 250°F and let the turkey cook for hours until the turkey reaches a temperature at least 170°F.  (I cooked mine for about 7 more hours. Mine actually reached 200°F because I wasn’t paying attention, so maybe that was the secret.  I plan on doing it again to be on the safer side.)  (Yes, I realize that the USDA recommends cooking turkeys at a temperature no lower than 325°F. I guess this is me on the wild side of life.)
  6. Take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest and cool for 20 minutes before carving.

Make sure you refrigerate your leftovers properly.

To read more about this, search slow-cooking a turkey on the internet.  You can also look up Alton Brown’s recipe for roast turkey–I got some ideas from him, and also the recipe for a turkey brine.

I hope you have a happy and delicious Thanksgiving this year!

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