Thanksgiving can be quite a hectic time of the year, and there are few greater challenges than cooking the perfect turkey. A the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal, it’s important to roast your turkey right. Here are a few key tips and tricks to keep in mind when cooking up this year’s turkey dinner.
- Give the turkey enough time to thaw. Don’t wait until the day before to take it out of the freezer. It takes approximately 4-5 days for a 20 lb turkey to fully defrost, and it’s better to give yourself too much time than not enough. The best way to thaw your turkey is to simply keep it in the refrigerator. For crisper skin, leave the turkey unwrapped in the fridge the night before you plan to cook it.
- Don’t set the oven temperature too high. While you might be a fan of crispy skin on your turkey, starting at a high temperature will only lead to burnt skin and undercooked meat. Keep your oven at a steady, moderate temperature (350 degrees Fahrenheit) to ensure evenly cooked meat.
- Avoid overstuffing the turkey. Turkeys cook more evenly when they are not densely stuffed. You can add flavor instead by filling the cavity with aromatic vegetables and tucking fresh herbs beneath the breast. For those of us who love stuffing, you can always cook up a nice casserole dish on the side.
- Don’t put the turkey in the oven too early. Even though turkeys take a long time to cook, it’s not a good idea to sit yours out for too long before serving. The general rule of thumb is to cook your turkey 13 minutes per pound. It’s a good idea to plan around three to five hours. You’ll also want to let it rest for about 20 minutes before serving.
- Don’t be a peeping tom. One the turkey is in the oven, leave it. Constantly open and closing the oven will fluctuate oven temperatures and leave you with a drier bird. Let the turkey brown by removing the foil just 45 minutes before you think it will be done.
- Use a meat thermometer. The most accurate way to determine that your turkey is fully cooked is to use a meat thermometer. Don’t rely on those pop-up timers that might come with the turkey. The turkey should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thigh before it’s removed from the oven. If you’ve stuffed your turkey, be sure to check the internal temperatures of the stuffing as well.
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