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How to Cook a Turkey

11 November 2020 96 views One Comment

Thanksgiving is coming up in the United States…do your know how to cook a turkey? If you are traveling back to your parents’ house for the day, you may not need to learn how to cook a turkey on your own, but if you live too far away to make the trip or (*gulp*) are going to attempt inviting everyone to your new digs for the holiday, learning how to cook a turkey is a must.

Luckily, it is easier than you think, so stop eying that supermarket rotisserie chicken!  Here are step-by-step instruction to how to cook a Thanksgiving bird that wows you and your guests:

  1. Thaw your turkey. This takes more than a day in most cases. Don’t resort to trying to thaw your bird in the microwave or sink. Put it in your refrigerator and let it thaw slowly. A small 10-pound turkey will take two to three days, while a larger bird could take five days or more.
  2. Remove the innards. Yes, it is gross, but most turkeys come with the neck and other yucky bits inside the bird. When you’re shopping, look at the label - some package their innards in a nice baggy for easy removal. Don’t through these parts away! You can cook them as part of the bird if someone in your family will eat them. If not, anything without bones makes a lovely treat for the dog or cat. (Talk to your vet first.)
  3. Don’t stuff your bird. This used to be a common practice, but we’ve since learned that it is a really good way to spread harmful bacteria and make everyone sick. In any case, I don’t recommend it, especially if you are a beginner.

No here comes the part where cooking methods differ greatly. If a parent or grandparent usually makes Thanksgiving dinner, there’s no shame in called them and asking how they like to cook their turkey. If not, this is a really good method that produces yummy results:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Separate the skin from the bird without removing it. You just want to be able to get your hand under there. Again, its gross. The results are worth it!
  3. Rub softened butter between the skin and the bird. Be generous - it’s Thanksgiving!
  4. Put the bird in an oven bag and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you want, you can add sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme to the bag. Some people also like to add onion and sage. Whatever floats your boat!
  5. Tie up the bag and put the bird in the oven. After about a half hour, reduce the cooking temperature to 325 degrees.

It is going to take your bird a long time to cook. A small unstuffed bird will likely take about three hours, while a bird that is 18-20 pounds will take four or five hours. If you do stuff your bird, it will take at least a half hour longer.

Always use a meat thermometer to check the done-ness of your bird. The juices should be clear when you pierce the turkey, and the temperature should be at least 180 degrees in the thigh and at least 170 degrees in the breast.

When you remove the turkey, let it stand for about 15 minutes before you carve it. That will allow the bird to “suck in” the juices. Yummy.

Ok, so if you feel like you still need direction at this point, there are tons of websites that can show you how to cook a turkey. Check out any of the following:

  • How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey
  • Let’s Talk Turky - the USDA
  • How Stuff Works’ How to Roast a Turkey
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One Comment »

  • Food/Cooking Carnival November 2008 « World Blog Carnival said:

    [...] presents How to Cook a Turkey posted at AfterGraduation. A simple and easy way to cook a turkey for the holidays, even if [...]

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