Tuesday, February 27, 2024

How to cook a turkey

by JIM MOWREADER/Guest contributor
| November 24, 2022 1:00 AM

Thanksgiving is upon us once again.

Let’s talk about how to make a turkey you can serve with pride.

We will start with the proposition that turkeys are basically not cookable. I mean, look at the thing. They’re huge. There are about seven different thicknesses of meat on one of them. They’re hollow in the middle so the heat is flowing all around them. If someone were to intentionally invent a dish that can’t be cooked, it would look like a turkey.

But do what I tell you, and you’ll be fine.

You are going to need:

One completely-thawed turkey

A jar of poultry seasoning

Salt and pepper

A pound of butter (Go for the gusto and get the real thing. You will need half of it.)

About a pound of onions

A head of celery

Three or four carrots

A good roasting pan with a flat rack (If you choose a disposable foil pan, please put it on a cookie sheet before you put the turkey in it.)

A roll of aluminum foil

A basting brush

A big platter to put it on for serving the Norman Rockwell way

A chef’s knife to carve with

A meat thermometer is also necessary if your turkey doesn’t have a pop-up meat timer. Most of them do.

Start by preheating your oven to 325°F.

Turkeys need to be stuffed before cooking to put moisture into the cavity, but don’t use traditional bread stuffing — the eggs lead to food poisoning. Chop the veggies, mix them with melted butter, and that’s your stuffing. Famous chefs call this mirepoix.

Melt a second stick of butter and add salt, pepper and a teaspoon of poultry seasoning. This is for basting the bird.

Now for the fun part. Get the turkey out of the fridge. Pat it dry with paper towels. Put it breast-side up on the flat rack in the roasting pan, which you put a cookie sheet under if it’s a disposable aluminum one. Stuff it with mirepoix. Brush the skin with butter, then sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Put it in the oven and set a timer.

According to the Butterball people, the typical 10-18 pound turkey requires 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours in a regular oven or 2-1/2 to 3-1/4 hours in a convection oven. So, no getting up while it’s still dark and putting the turkey in the oven at 6 a.m., OK?

About once an hour, slide it out of the oven and baste it with more butter. You’re doing this for the benefit of the skin, which is the best part of the turkey. The butter you added to the mirepoix is going to season the meat.

While the turkey is in the oven, prepare a tent of aluminum foil. Easy task: Just unroll about 3 feet of foil and fold it in half. About two-thirds of the way through the cooking cycle, open the tent up and set it on top of the turkey. This keeps the breast from overcooking.

If you didn’t get a turkey with a pop-up timer, you’re looking for a temperature in the mirepoix of 170 degrees Fahrenheit and a thigh temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Since most turkeys come with timers, when the timer pops up the bird is done.

When you’re at temperature, remove the turkey from the oven right away. If you leave it in longer, all you’re doing is drying the poor thing out.