A holiday just wouldn’t be the same without a feast to be shared with family and friends. Turkeys are one of the most common holiday meats to cook up. In addition to providing a lot of food for a large crowd, a turkey has other benefits too, like the aroma that all can smell while it’s cooking. I’m going to go over how to make the perfect turkey for any holiday in today’s article. If you’ve been intimidated to try cooking a turkey for a group of people, well then throw that feeling out the window and let’s get reading.
Picking Out the Right Turkey
Making the perfect turkey starts with picking out a good turkey that is going to feed the number of people you are expecting. Unless you raise turkeys or plan on going hunting for one, you will need to visit the freezer section of your local grocery store.
It may all look confusing when you start to peruse the frozen turkey section at the store. You may see labels like Organic, Turkey Breast Only, Heritage, and more. The good thing is that you have a lot of choices. This does not have to be a difficult choice. If you are into organic foods, buy an organic turkey. Expect to pay a bit more for an organic turkey. A heritage turkey is a turkey type that has been around for many years. Watch out that you don’t pick a turkey breast only turkey unless that is what you are wanting. This type will not have legs or thighs, only the breast part.
Size is going to be important in a turkey. Plan on 1 to 1/2 pounds of turkey for every guest. While this may seem like a lot, remember there are bones in that turkey so you will have to account for that. If you plan on feeding ten people, go for no less than a 10 to 15-pound turkey.
Thawing the Turkey
If you are buying a fresh turkey, then you will not have to thaw it out. However, if you buy the turkey from a grocery store, you are going to need to thaw it out. Some people like to thaw it out in the refrigerator the day or two before you plan to cook it. Others like to thaw it out starting the night before in a bucket of cold water or the sink water. You will want to be careful if you don’t thaw it out in the refrigerator that you don’t have meat sitting at room temperature and going bad.
Rinsing the Turkey
Before cooking the turkey, you will want to rinse it out under cold water. Reach in the neck section and pull out the gizzards and gravy. Not all turkey will have this, but most do. You will want to feel for a bag or two in there. Remove the gizzards and gravy bag and water rinse in the turkey cavities. The gizzards and innards can be cooked next to the turkey inside the roasting pan.
The Roasting Pan
When cooking a turkey, a roasting pan is going to be your best bet. There are many roasting pans to choose from with many different price ranges. You don’t need to spend a lot on a roasting pan, unless you are going for a fancy look or if you have certain features that you really like in a roasting pan. The biggest factor is going to be to get that turkey into a roasting pan and get it cooking.
Cooking The Turkey
Now it’s time to cook the turkey. There are many ways to cook a turkey. Some people like to put a bed of vegetables like carrots down on the roasting pan floor or a rack if your roasting pan came with a rack. My roasting pan doesn’t have a rack, so I add water to my pan and sometimes put carrots and potatoes around the turkey. It always turns out nice and moist because of the extra water that keeps it moist while cooking. The most important thing will be to place the turkey with the turkey breast part facing upwards.
Stuffing or No Stuffing?
When I was growing up, all of our turkey feasts had stuffing that was cooked inside the turkey cavity. Nowadays, it is suggested to cook the stuffing in a separate pan to prevent bacteria issues. A stuffed turkey will take longer to cook also. You can decide if you want to stick with grandma’s recipe of stuffing inside or not. I don’t remember anyone getting sick on eating turkey with stuffing cooked inside, but there are now warnings to not cook it that way. Who knew?
Temperature and Length
Your store bought turkey should come with directions telling you how long to cook it based on how many pounds of turkey you are cooking. It will also tell you what temperature to cook it at. Most turkeys will come with a little thermometer type plastic device. The device will spring out when it’s done. If you have a cooking thermometer, you will want the turkey to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. When it has reached the temperature it needs to be, take the turkey out and let it rest for awhile. It will be very hot and hard to cut anyways when it’s that hot.
Summing It Up
Cooking a turkey can be an intimidating thing, especially if it’s your first time cooking one. But it is not hard to do. There really is nothing quite like the smell of a turkey cooking to get everyone in the holiday spirit. I hope that this article has motivated you to try and cook a turkey at your next holiday get together. Before long you will be a pro and will be teaching someone how to cook a turkey. Have fun and let’s get cooking.
For more information, check out our Top 10 Roasting Pans of 2018.