Turkey Tips

Dated: 11/20/2018

Views: 56

I remember when I hosted our first Thanksgiving meal for my in-laws and my parents. It was shortly after I was married, and I spent the majority of Thanksgiving morning on the phone with my mom, and my mother-in-law asking for tips and help as I tried desperately to pull off the "perfect" meal. (What are moms for - right?) They both gave me fantastic help and tips and dinner ended up being a success. To this Day, I still have questions and still am always looking for the perfect way to cook the turkey.

Here are some tips - whether you are new to hosting Thanksgiving, or an old pro.

How big of a turkey do I really need? For birds under 16 pounds, figure at least 1 pound of turkey per person. For larger birds 16 pounds and heavier, figure a bit less since there’s more meat in proportion to bone. If you want substantial seconds and leftovers, allow another 1/2 pound per person.

Turkey Weight (in pounds)  Average Servings  Ample Servings with Leftovers
 12  12  8
 14  14  9
 16  16  10
 18  20  12
 20  22  14

If you have a large crowd coming - it might be easier to roast two smaller turkeys instead of 1 large one. They cook faster and it take up less oven space!

Rub the turkey all over with olive oil or melted butter:   This little trick helps the turkey brown evenly.  Sprinkle the turkey with kosher salt (unless you’ve already brined it) to help crisp the skin.

Oven temperature: It is best to cook the turkey at a low, steady temperature of  325°F from start to finish.

Don’t stuff it. Stuffing the turkey slows down the cooking time and makes it much more difficult. By the time you get the stuffing to a temperature that’s safe to eat, you will have overcooked the bird. Also, you can’t get that much stuffing inside the bird. Instead, add sliced onion, garlic, or herbs inside the cavity to help perfume the air with all those wonderful Thanksgiving smells.

Don’t baste it. Basting doesn’t actually make the meat any more tender; the juices just stay on the skin. Also, opening the oven door can cause the temperature to fall as much as 40 degrees in just a few seconds. And that will change the cooking time in a negative way.

When is the turkey done? Buy a food thermometer if you don’t already have one. Test the turkey in three spots to make sure the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees. Test it on the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.

Let it rest. The turkey needs to sit and rest after it comes out of the oven.  Do not attempt to carve it right away. The intense heat of the oven forces the juices into the center of the bird, so after roasting, let the turkey rest for at least 30-45 minutes.  The juices will redistribute, and you’ll get moister slices. You can use the resting time to get all the other dishes heated up and make the gravy.

Store the leftovers. It's a bit of a chore - but the sooner you deal with the turkey leftovers - the better. Take the turkey off the bones and put it in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 Days. If you are really ambitious - you can use the carcass to make stock and start simmering it right on the stove while you do dishes. If you don't want to deal with it - freeze the carcass in a grocery shopping bag and use it for another time to make stock.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast!


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Alexander Monticello Esq.

Alexander is a New York State licensed real estate broker and New York State licensed attorney. A life long upstate New Yorker, Alexander has lived and worked in the Capital Region since 2005. He has ....

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