UNITED STATES—Guys we kicked off all things Thanksgiving last week with our column about proper preparation to prepare for the festive Thanksgiving feast, but this week let’s talk about something that scares us all: TURKEY. Yes, cooking a turkey is no easy task, and for most of us we avoid the bird at all cost if possible. Even I am guilty of avoiding cooking the turkey at all costs, but at some point you have to just roll up those sleeves and go for it.
I honestly have learned in recent years the biggest mistake so many people make when attempting to cook the turkey is not preparing in advance. So what exactly does that mean? Several things 1) Know how big of a turkey you need to purchase. Are you feeding a small crowd or a massive crowd? If it’s a feast of people headed to your house, you’re going to need a larger turkey. Which means you need to purchase that frozen turkey in advance and allow it to properly THAW!
Gosh, I see this all the time and it’s the biggest mistake. You cannot purchase a turkey the day before Thanksgiving and think you’ll have it defrosted and ready to toss in the oven or the deep fryer the same day. Tossing a frozen turkey into a deep fryer can be catastrophic so listen up. You can’t have EXCESS water when frying a turkey it will cause the oil/grease to overflow and you will start a grease fire which is no laughing matter. Lesson for 2017, if you’ve never deep fried a turkey don’t try it unless you ABSOLUTELY know what you’re doing and you’re doing it at a safe distance from the house. I will admit a fried turkey has a taste unlike anything I’ve ever consumed in my life.
When it comes to thawing the turkey, it’s wise to purchase the bird at least 3-4 days before Thanksgiving to give it a suitable amount of time to properly thaw. 2) Once the turkey has thawed, rather you brine the turkey is up to you. Some do it and some don’t and if you ask me you don’t necessarily have to do it, but that is only if you’re one who has successfully cooked turkeys in the past and you know the trick to keeping the bird moist and juicy. Trust me; a dry turkey is the worst thing, which is why I’ve never been the biggest fan of turkey. I don’t want to eat something where I feel like I’m going to choke because it’s so dry.
Proper seasoning of your bird and ensuring that you do not overcook it is key to ensuring it is moist, juicy and satisfying for all your guests. A secret ingredient that is sometimes underutilized is BUTTER. Use that to moisten the skin underneath the turkey breast and on top of the bird to ensure a golden and crispy skin. In addition, don’t forget the importance of salt and pepper (perhaps the two MOST important ingredients when it comes to seasoning any meat).
Something I’m guilty of, as well as so many others I know is 3) not allowing your meat to properly rest before deciding to carve. Carving before the meat has rested a bit to soak up those juices and flavors is a rookie mistake so many people make. This is where patience once again becomes an important element in the arena of food; allow the food to rest, those juices and flavors to build and when you carve, your guests will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
The biggest advice I can give is if you’re uncertain what to do when it comes to cooking a turkey, ask for HELP! Talk to your local butchers, family members and friends. There is no better way to curb a potential disaster than to get assistance from someone who knows best. The bird may be big, it may be daunting, but conquer that fear face-to-face and prove not only to others, but to yourself, anything is possible.