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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Selecting and Preparing your first Thanksgiving turkey

English: A Thanksgiving turkey that had been s...
English: A Thanksgiving turkey that had been soaked for 10 hours in a brine of water, salt, brown sugar, cut and squeezed lemons and oranges, and chopped onion. Roasted in the oven in a roasting


Buying the turkey
One of the first things you'll need to do when you decide to host Thanksgiving at your home is buy the turkey. Knowing what size turkey to buy for the amount of guests you'll be having is key. A good rule of thumb is to allow for about ¾ to one pound of turkey per guest. Now, it is important to remember that most turkey's have a pound or two of giblets, the neck, and fluid that you'll need to factor in, along with some shrinkage from cooking. Subtract a few pounds from the weight of the turkey when you purchase because of those factors. In essence, a 20 pound turkey should feed 8 guests well.

Preparing the turkey
When preparing your turkey for the oven, you'll need to do a few things. Don't just pop it into the oven without doing a full body cavity search. I know this sounds like you're frisking your turkey for shop lifting but the truth is, there is usually packages of giblets, the neck, etc. Be sure to check both ends of the turkey, not just the torso cavity. The neck in is usually hiding a few surprises too. If you like you can remove the wings from the turkey and use them for stock with your giblet gravy, however, if you don't have the time, you can simply tuck them in under your bird. This prevents the tips from burning later.

Basting the turkey
Give your bird a nice butter basting all over the breast portion and legs. If you wish to use herbed butter, add ½ tsp each of rosemary, sage, parsley, pepper, 2 tbs of Soy sauce to the butter as you melt it. One stick of unsalted butter or margarine should be enough for the basting of your turkey, be sure to use all of the butter mixture. Once you have basted the turkey discard any leftover butter.

Roasting the turkey
In an oven preheated to 325 degrees you'll want to place your turkey on the lower rack of the oven in a roasting pan. Turkeys that do not have stuffing inside of them and weigh between 20 to 24 lbs take about 5 ½ to 6 hours to cook. Check your turkey every so often during the last 3 hours of roasting to make sure the top is not over browning. If you see that the turkey is darkening too quickly, place tin foil loosely over the top of the breast and return to oven. If this is your first time roasting a turkey, you'll do well to invest in a meat thermometer. Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast and if the temperature has reached 185 degrees your turkey is done.

Serving the turkey
Once the turkey has finished roasting, remove the turkey from the oven and place on a protected surface. If your turkey was in a roasting pan, place the lid back on the pan and allow the turkey to sit for about 20 minutes undisturbed. This allows for all the juices to redistribute back into the meat of the turkey and will assure your turkey is moist and delicious. If you don't have a roasting pan lid, simply seal the turkey in the pan using foil and crimp along the edges. Your turkey will be moist and juicy.

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