Preparing a turkey for the traditional Thanksgiving meal can be a daunting task. After all, it’s the main dish. Below I share 15 tips to roast the perfect Thanksgiving turkey that is tender, juicy and delicious.
- Size matters – Allow one pound of turkey for each adult guest at your dinner. For example, if you are serving 10 people, buy a 10-pound turkey. This provides a generous serving of turkey and guarantees extra turkey for leftovers.
- Thaw your bird – The best place to do this is in the fridge. It may take up to three days to completely thaw so plan ahead! Never thaw a bird at room temperature. You can get food poisoning by letting it sit on the counter.
- Rinse the bird – Remove the giblets and neck that come inside the cavity of the bird.
- Brine your bird – Use one cup of salt to a gallon of water and let it absorb all the flavor. Pour the brine over the turkey in a plastic container, cover and keep it in the fridge for 12-48 hours. You won’t need to add more salt later.
- Pat down – Remove the bird from the brine and pat it dry so it will roast evenly. Dry skin crisps nicely.
- Avoid a soggy bottom – Elevate the turkey off the roasting pan by using a roasting rack. No need to run off and buy one if you don’t have one. Lift the bird with carrots, onions, and celery. The veggies will roast along with the bird.
- Add flavor – Add chopped fresh herbs for flavor. I like using rosemary, thyme, and sage. Also, don’t forget to season! I like to add a little paprika to the skin to give it that perfect color. Some folks stick a few peeled cloves of garlic and lemon slices in the cavity.
- Nix basting – Basting the bird won’t give you crispy skin. It’ll be soggy and it will increase your cooking time as you’ll end up letting the heat escape the oven every time you open it. Instead, see the next tip.
- Add fat – Rub the skin of the bird with 1-3 Tablespoons of butter to help it crisp. Also add herbs and butter under the skin, but don’t go overboard. Too much fat will just just make the meat greasy.
- Don’t stuff it – A stuffed bird will take longer to cook and make end up undercooked, landing you in trouble. If you insist on stuffing your bird, make sure you roast it until the stuffing has an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Buy a meat thermometer – If you have one, calibrate it before using. Fill a cup with crushed ice and water, and insert the thermometer for 30 to 60 seconds. It should read 32 degrees Fahrenheit (the freezing point of water). If it’s a few degrees over you’ll have to subtract those degrees after inserting the thermometer in your bird. If it’s a few degrees under, you’ll have to add the degrees. This helps give you an accurate reading!
- Take it’s temperature – The turkey is done when your thermometer reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted in the thigh (make sure it doesn’t touch the bone), before removing from the oven. The temperature of the breast should reach 170 degrees.
- Let it rest – Before you begin to carve, let your bird rest for about 20 minutes after you take it out of the oven. This will help keep the juices in the meat. Niconail likes to “tent” meat by covering loosely with tin foil, which traps steam and makes for juicier meat.
- Keep the juices – Don’t waste the juices in the bottom of the pan! Use them to make amazing gravy.
- Soak the breast – Let the pieces of breast soak in the juices to keep them moist before serving.
Won’t be roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving day? Save money with these non-traditional Thanksgiving meal ideas. What are your tips to roasting the perfect turkey?