Due to its nutritional benefits and unique taste, turkey is rightly appreciated in many countries throughout the world. A juicy roasted turkey can be an ideal solution not only for a festive Thanksgiving table but for a quiet family dinner as well. Despite the apparent complexity, cooking a turkey is quite simple, especially if you know some tricks of its preparation.
Today we will show you how to cook a turkey in the oven and turn it into your favorite homemade dish.
How to Choose the Right Turkey
Before you understand how to roast a turkey, it is necessary to choose a good bird. Otherwise, the taste of this dish will disappoint you and your guests.
If you hope to get a tasty turkey, you should give your preference to fresh young meat of good quality. Make sure that the skin of the bird is light and smooth, and the meat is dense and elastic. Do not forget to check the smell and the surface of a turkey – it should not be sticky. The most delicious meat has a turkey that weighs nearly 12-15 pounds. Large turkeys weighing 20 pounds are, as a rule, ‘elderly’ birds, the meat of which remains hard and dry even after several hours of cooking.
However, turkey is perhaps one of the few types of meat that is often sold frozen. Therefore, you should carefully look at the packaging of this product. There must be no liquid, ice, or blood inside, and the packaging itself should be undamaged.
How to Cook a Turkey if it is Frozen
If you buy a frozen bird, do not forget that it will take you some time to thaw it. At the beginning of the cooking process, your turkey should be completely defrosted; otherwise, it will not have the desired taste. Every 4 pounds of a frozen bird need 24 hours of thawing time. You can put your turkey on a cookie sheet or into a big pan and put it into your fridge. One more variant is to leave it in cold water, which must be periodically changed. In this case, the time for thawing will be slightly reduced.
Is it Necessary to Brine Your Turkey?
Brining is often considered an optional step of turkey preparation. However, we think that this measure will add some juiciness and flavor to your dish.
For marinade, you should put some salt and sugar into the boiling water, add some spices and stir until the crystals dissolve. Keep your turkey in this marinade for 24 hours. During this time, the brine will penetrate the meat, saturate it with moisture, and improve the taste.
Roast Turkey Recipe
- 1 turkey, which was previously brined;
- Butter, olive oil, salt, and your favorite seasonings;
- 1 orange, 1 apple and some celery and cloves for stuffing (optional).
You should also prepare:
- A roasting pan;
- A list of foil;
- Meat thermometer.
Your bird is finally ready for the most responsible moments of the whole process of turkey cooking – seasoning and baking.
Read also: How to choose a turkey fryer
How long to cook a turkey?
Time needed: 1 day and 6 hours.
–Brining – 24 hours;
–Preparation for baking – 1.5 hours;
–Baking time – from 4 to 5 hours.
- Remove your turkey from the fridge and prepare it for roasting
Bring out your turkey and dry it off with some paper towels. After this, just leave it for an hour at room temperature. Do not heat a cool turkey; otherwise, its meat will not be juicy and soft.
- Prepare a seasoning for your turkey
Melt 3 spoons of butter, and then mix it with salt and some herbs or seasonings to your taste.
- Place your turkey breast-side up into a roasting pan and smear the mixture of butter and seasonings all over the turkey
This mixture will ensure an amazing taste and a golden color of your dish.
Be careful with the skin. It would be better to spread the butter mixture not only on the skin but also a little under it. Later, you may use toothpicks to secure the skin and fix it to the inside part of your turkey (near the legs).
- How to bake a turkey: with stuffing or without it?
Many people like to put some stuffing into the turkey. However, we do not recommend doing it. The meat of a stuffed turkey is likely to be overcooked by the time the filling gets ready. The best way to cook a turkey is to put some oranges, apples, and herbs into its cavity. These ingredients will add special flavor and moisture to your dish.
- Tent your turkey with foil and put it into a preheated oven
First, heat your oven to 400°F. This temperature at the very beginning of a baking process will make the legs of your turkey crispy and shorten the turkey cooking time. In 40 minutes, you will reduce it to 325°F. Approximate turkey cooking time is from 4 to 5 hours.
It depends on the total weight of your bird. You should give nearly 20 minutes for every pound of your bird.
When you clearly see the juices, it is time to check the temperature of the turkey. Insert your meat thermometer into the breast of the bird, which is its thickest part. When it registers 180ºF, take off the tent and bake your turkey for one more hour.
In most cases, it is necessary to add nearly 40 minutes to the overall cooking time if you decide to roast turkey with stuffing.
An important tip:
Try not to open your oven too often. It will cool the temperature in the oven and prolong the turkey cook time.
The last step is to finally remove your turkey from an oven and leave it for 20-30 minutes to rest
Your dish will cool a bit and the juices will reabsorb back into the turkey and dispense throughout the meat.
Carve your bird and enjoy your meal!
A life hack from a cook: A delicate taste of a turkey can be successfully combined with the sweet-and-sour side dishes. For example, it can be rice with pineapples or pear garnish with ginger sauce. As we can see, cooking a delicious turkey is not as difficult as it may seem. The most important thing in this task is to have a big desire and to follow the right instructions. We hope that our recommendations as for how to make a turkey will help you to prepare a crispy, soft, and tasty bird, and impress your guests with a nice homemade dinner.