I plan on serving the usual: turkey, stuffing, red-skin mashed potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce (my favorite), green bean casserole (a family favorite) and dinner rolls to soak up all the juices! And even though those dishes are typically served on Thanksgiving, you can bet that I’m going to put my own flare into every single dish!
What is the one dish that needs a lot of prep work before it gets showcased on the dining room table? The bird, of course. For many who have never cooked a turkey before (or for those looking for a refresher course), preparing it can seem overwhelming at first. But there’s no need to worry…just follow the simple steps below and I guarantee your bird will be a huge hit!
Preparing a Turkey — Step-by-Step Instructions:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut plastic wrapping around the turkey. Remove the neck and package of gizzards from inside the turkey; set aside for turkey stock.
- Wash the turkey thoroughly inside and out with cold water.
- Place the turkey on a cutting board with the legs up — If your turkey has a pop-up thermometer, it should be on top. Bend the two wings back under the rear of the turkey.
- If you want to use fresh herbs such as thyme or sage, push your hands underneath the turkey skin to loosen. Place herbs under the skin prior to cooking for added flavor.
- Fill the cavity of the bird with prepared stuffing — Be careful not to overstuff the cavity. Tie together the two legs to help hold the stuffing in the turkey during cooking.
- Spray roasting pan and rack with cooking spray before putting the turkey on the pan.
- Cover the entire surface of the turkey with butter or olive oil, salt and pepper. Then cover with aluminum foil, making an airtight seam.
- Cook the turkey for 3 hours before checking the temperature of the meat. Baste the turkey with butter or olive oil throughout the entire cooking time. Remove the foil during the last 30 minutes of cooking time to allow the skin to brown.
- Allow the cooked turkey to sit for 30 minutes, allowing enough time to use the pan juices to make gravy.
Recommended cooking times:
- 8-12 lb Turkey: 3-3.5 hours
- 12-14 lb Turkey: 3.5-4 hours
- 14-18 lb Turkey: 4 -4.5 hours
- 18-20 lb Turkey: 4..5-4.75 hours
- 20-24 lb Turkey: 4.75-5.25 hours
Please keep in mind, this is a very basic way of preparing a turkey. Feel free to take the ingredients a few steps further by adding your own spices (such as rosemary…my favorite) and replacing aluminum foil with cheesecloth.
Oh! And one more important side note…make sure the turkey is completely thawed before baking. Turkeys are usually kept frozen so allow enough time for the big bird to cool down before popping it in the oven.
What is your favorite recipe for a Thanksgiving turkey?