Monday, 10 October 2011

Let's Talk Turkey

That's right everyone, I am going to speak plainly about how to make a delicious turkey dinner. Well.. the bird part anyway!

I may have made some mistakes in the past, but I think I have learned from my mistakes and now am pretty accomplished at making a holiday meal. 

Here are a few of my top tips for making a turkey (and how to easily carve the bird).

1. Fresh or frozen? 

Yes that is the question of the day, isn't it? When a turkey is frozen the ice crystals damage muscle cells, so the bird is more likely to dry out in the cooking process.

But that being said, I buy frozen. The price is right and if I can do it, you can too! Just watch that you don't puncture the skin when you're preparing the bird, really watch how you cook it, and make sure you let it rest before you begin to carve. 

2. Prepare it yourself or buy it ready done?

No, I don't buy a turkey stuffed up with butter already. I really like to make sure I am making my turkey the way I want. And the way I do it isn't by shooting it up with flavourful needles of fat, they might taste good but the needles poke needless holes into my bird and let the real juices leak out. 

Instead, gently push your hand up under the skin of the breast - as far as you can reach. Then take whole fresh sage leaves, slices of garlic cloves, and cubes of butter and smear them all under the skin. Top the whole thing off with a little salt and pepper, and you're all set. 

That's real delicious-ness!

3. Truss it up or let it wobble-to-and-fro?

Save the wobbling for the hokey-pokey and truss up those legs. If you don't the legs will wobble free and could easily overcook. Tightly tied legs will take the same length of time to cook as the breast. 

Most turkeys even come with a loose flap of skin to stick the legs in, or you can use butcher's twine to tie them together.

(You'll notice in my picture that my turkey's legs are wobbling. There was a piece of skin that held them together when I put the bird in the oven, but I guess I should have tied it myself since the legs broke free!)

4. Cooking time?

Use about 15 minutes a pound for a turkey cooking at about 325 degrees. This is for a larger turkey though, and times can easily differ. 

Use a thermometer to make sure you're on the ball and at about 175 degrees. You want your turkey to be 180 degrees, but it will finish cooking under foil during the resting time. 

5. Stuffing or dressing? 

And yes, there is a difference! Stuffing is created when a mixture of bread, veggies, or fruit is stuffed into the turkey. Dressing is made when it's cooked outside the bird. 

Just think of it "stuff" inside the turkey or how the turkey is "dressed" when it's served. 

I choose dressing because it's hard to get the inside of the turkey to at least 165 degrees, (the lowest cooked safe point for eating poultry) and still have the outside of the turkey moist and delicious!

6. Let is rest or cut right in?

You better let it rest, especially with a frozen bird. This is the part of the cooking process that keeps the meat juicy and flavourful. The juices are all running wild when the meat comes out of the oven, but they'll settle down and redistribute into the meat if you wait about 15 minutes or so.

Even do this if you think you've overcooked the turkey. Yes, the turkey does continue to cook a bit more while it rests, but the juice flows onto your counter if you don't and then your turkey will taste extremely overcooked.

I'd say to cover it with a tented piece of foil if you've got itchy hands. This is what I do. 

7. To carve or hand the knife over to someone else?

Carve! It's so easy! Plus, I've let Luke carve before and I'm sorry Luke, but it was not a pretty picture.

Just cut off the legs and the wings and place them on a serving plate. Then take a sharp fillet style knife and take off each breast in one piece. Start at the top of the bird's front and stick your knife in, work your way to the tail, and the meat should just come off. Then cut your breast into nice portions and place them on the serving plate too.

Not only is this easy, but now everyone gets a crispy bit of skin. You might not have the problems I do with this craving, but oh boy... I want a piece of crispy skin and no fights need to break out now!

8. Seconds?

I'll let you be the judge for this one. I saved room for dessert last night, but eating only one helping was a miracle in itself.

If you disagree with anything, please let me know. I love making my holiday meals easier and tastier. 

1 comment:

  1. Great job Sarah!! I really enjoyed this - I'm sure it will be a great guide for many cooks to come!