The countdown to Thanksgiving is underway. Are you ready to tackle the turkey, submit the stuffing and declare victory over the hors d’ouvres?
With so many guests and different seasonal dishes (and just one oven), this is a holiday that causes pre-show jitters even for veteran cooks. But a little preparation in advance can help you identify issues now and lay the groundwork for a flawless feast.
Read on for a collection of turkey tips from the pros at Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Magazine to help you get through the big meal in style.
Choosing a pan
If you make turkey and other roasted meats frequently, you should consider investing in a sturdy stainless-steel pan that will last a lifetime. Heavy stainless performs much better than lightweight aluminum, and distributes heat evenly. And it won’t sag under the weight of a big roast. Look for a rectangular pan just big enough to fit your turkey, with medium-height sides (about three inches) and strong handles you can rely on. A pan with a nonstick surface will not allow foods and meat juices to brown and caramelize. Some pans come with racks; if not, you will need to buy one.
It is best to thaw turkey in the refrigerator, where it’s too cold for harmful bacteria to grow. Use the bottom shelf, in case of drips. Place the turkey, breast side up, in its original wrapper, onto a rimmed baking sheet. Plan ahead to allow a full day for every four pounds of turkey being thawed.
To avoid creating an environment favorable to harmful bacteria, stuff the turkey just before putting it in the oven, not ahead of time. Fill the cavity loosely, since stuffing will expand as it heats and will not cook evenly if it is too packed, providing another opportunity for bacteria to grow. Once the turkey is filled, secure the neck flap by pulling down the skin and fastening it with skewers or trussing needles.
Once the turkey is stuffed, tie the legs together with cotton kitchen twine; finish with a bow that will be easy to undo later. Wing tips should be tucked under the body so they don’t burn. Rub the bird with oil or butter, and season as desired. Begin basting after the first hour of cooking.
The bird is ready when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees and juices run clear when meat is pierced. Stuffing should reach 165 degrees. Remove roasting pan from oven, and set on a heat-resistant surface. Tent turkey loosely with foil, and let it rest for half an hour before removing stuffing and carving so that the meat juices can be reabsorbed.
How to Stuff and Prepare a Turkey
- Fill Neck Cavity
Place turkey breast side down, and fill neck cavity with stuffing; avoid packing tightly.
- Close and Fasten
Close up by folding skin over and fastening with skewers or trussing needles, if necessary.
- Tuck Wings
Turn turkey breast side up; bend wing tips forward and underneath neck cavity so they stay in place (you may have to break wings at joint).
- Stuff Turkey and Tie Legs
1. Loosely fill large cavity. Using cotton kitchen twine, tie legs together securely (they will overlap) so bird retains its shape and moisture during roasting.
2. Spreading butter under the skin enhances the flavor of the breast meat.
3. To ensure a moist and tender turkey, baste it often, and take it out of the oven when it reaches the specified temperature; the bird will continue to cook as it rests.
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