What You Will Need:
A turkey (fresh or frozen)
A shallow roasting pan (2 to 2.5 inches or 5 to 6 centimeters deep)
A meat thermometer (oven safe or instant read)
An oven that the turkey will fit into
A baster or basting brush
Some metal or wooden skewers
Some butter, margarine, or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
Some aluminum foil
A flat rack that fits inside the roasting pan
Sage, bay leaves, or rosemary
A few carrots
A few sticks of celery
Flour or cornstarch
wine, sherry, or milk
20 minutes to prepare a turkey. Approximately 18 minutes of roasting for each pound (.45 kilograms).
It’s important to mix your stuffing shortly before you put it in the turkey.
Some experts claim that basting a turkey is ineffective. They say that the liquid barely penetrates beneath the skin. Nonetheless, hundreds of moms and chefs still swear by the process. If you are especially worried about having a dry turkey, you may want to baste it to put your mind at ease. That way, if anyone asks whether or not you basted, you can say yes.
The safest way to deal with leftover turkey, and to avoid any possible bacterial contamination, is to remove meat from the bones within two hours after the turkey is done roasting. Eat the turkey and stuffing within three days after roasting. If you store leftovers in the freezer, store the meat and stuffing separately. The stuffing will retain its optimum taste for one month, and the turkey will retain its best flavor for two months.
Roast a Turkey
So you’re hosting a holiday meal, and you want to roast a turkey. But how do you even prepare one? You’re worried it’ll wind up dry, undercooked, or–heaven forbid–still frozen! Have no fear, we’ll walk you through the steps that will make your dinner a success.
You can usually find a turkey at any grocery store, especially during holiday seasons, and they come either frozen or fresh. Some turkeys are labeled as “free range.” This means they were allowed to freely roam on a turkey farm while they were alive, and didn’t ingest antibiotics or hormones.
If you choose a frozen turkey, take into consideration how long it needs to thaw before roasting. Plan on two to three days for the turkey to properly thaw. How long it takes will depend on its size. Defrosting in the refrigerator is the safest way to handle poultry.
You’ll also have to decide how big a turkey to get. Plan on 3/4 to 1 pound of turkey per diner. (If you want leftovers, don’t forget to add a couple of hypothetical diners to the equation.)
Prepare the oven and the turkey
Before you start anything, preheat the oven to 325Â°F (163Â°C). A preheated oven will ensure even roasting and will help to seal in the turkey’s natural juices.
Take your fresh or thawed turkey, and remove the wrapping from it. Next, remove the giblets and neck from the turkey’s main cavity. (If you like, the giblets can be used in the gravy, or both can be used in making turkey soup later.) Clear off any extra fat in the skin. The turkey may be fairly juicy; if it is, pat it dry with paper towels.
If you’re stuffing your turkey with dressing, now is the time. Stuff it into the main cavity, but don’t pack it in too tightly, as it won’t cook all the way through if you do. You can always put additional stuffing in the neck cavity if you want more stuffing in the turkey. It’s also possible to bake stuffing on the side, in a separate dish. Some experts recommend this instead of stuffing the turkey, as the turkey roasts faster and it reduces health concerns about the stuffing or turkey being properly cooked.
If you’re not using stuffing, you can put about 1.5 teaspoons of aromatic herbs such as bay leaves, rosemary, or sage in the turkey’s cavities at this time. You can also add aromatic vegetables such as carrots, celery, and onions. Herbs and vegetables will improve the meat’s flavoring. Make sure you clean the vegetables and remove any skin before placing them in the turkey. You might also want to cut them down into sizes that stuff more easily.
Truss the turkey
Whether or not you’ve put in stuffing, herbs, or vegetables, you’ll want to keep the turkey juicy by closing up the cavities before roasting. Use metal or wooden skewers to fasten the loose flap of skin over the neck cavity. Tie the legs together in front of the opening of the body cavity to close it. (This can also be done with skewers.) When you do this, make sure your string is made of cotton. An acrylic or plastic string would melt during roasting.
Rub the turkey’s skin with a generous amount of butter, margarine, or vegetable oil to create a crisp, brown skin while roasting. Lightly salt and pepper the outside of the turkey.
Set the turkey, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan, or onto a shallow rack set in the roasting pan. The rack will let air circulate, creating a nice brown color all around the turkey, and also promote even roasting. Tuck the tips of the wings under the turkey, so you have a neat, compact turkey that will keep its juices in.
Place the meat thermometer in the turkey
If you’re using an oven-safe meat thermometer, place it just above the thighbone and point it toward the body. The thighbone is relatively centered in the thigh. The thermometer should not touch the bone, but should go deep into the thigh meat. Turn the thermometer so you can read the dial while the turkey is roasting.
If you’re using an instant-read thermometer, it won’t be safe in the oven while the turkey is roasting, but you can use it in the later stages of roasting to find out how done the turkey is. When using it, position it in the same place you would an oven-safe thermometer. Roast and baste the turkey
Place your turkey into the preheated oven. You can relax a little now. But every 30 minutes or so, you should baste the turkey. The purpose of basting is to keep the turkey meat moist.
Baste your turkey by covering it in its own juice. If you have a basting syringe, use it to draw up the drippings in the pan and then gently spray them over the top of the turkey. If you’re using a basting brush, dip it into the juices and gently brush it over the turkey.
If the turkey hasn’t produced much juice early in the roasting process, you can baste the turkey with melted butter.
About two-thirds through the roasting time, once the skin turns golden brown, place an aluminum foil tent over the turkey to protect it from burning. Make sure you prop the foil tent on the sides of the pan or rack, so it doesn’t touch the skin.
Determine if the turkey is done
The best way to determine if a turkey is done is to test it with a thermometer. Partially cooked poultry is unhealthy to serve, due to the bacteria that may have survived in it.
Begin to test for doneness 30 minutes before you expect the turkey to be ready. There are three readings you can take with your meat thermometer to make sure the turkey is fully cooked.
Thigh: The temperature deep inside the thigh should be 180Â° to 185Â°F (82Â° to 85Â°C). Don’t hit the bone with the thermometer when taking this reading.
Breast: The temperature in the thickest part of the breast should be 170Â° to 175Â°F (77Â° to 79Â°C). Measure just above the ribs, and again don’t touch the thermometer to the bone.
Stuffing: If you stuffed the turkey, check it for doneness. A thermometer placed in the center of the stuffing should read at least 165Â°F (74Â°C).
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can visually check the turkey and rely on the timing schedule based on the turkey’s weight. When you check the turkey, pierce the thigh deeply to check the juice coming from the meat. The juice should be clear and not pink.
When you determine that your turkey is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes. That will allow it to soak up all its juices, and will make it easier to carve. Save the juices in the pan for making gravy. When the turkey has cooled, remove the stuffing, and place the turkey on a serving platter.
Letting the turkey sit before carving it also piques your guests’ appetites. More important, it allows time for everyone to praise you for what a beautiful roast turkey you’ve created.
Make some gravy (optional)
To make gravy, use this ratio of ingredients: one tablespoon of flour per one tablespoon of fat per one cup of liquid. Then follow these guidelines:
* To begin, pour the drippings from the roasting pan into another container. Let this sit until the fat begins to congeal on the top. Separate the fat from the juices with a spoon. * Next, heat the fat in a pan over medium heat, and add flour. * Mix the flour with the fat and heat the combination until the flour starts to turn brown. * Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the drippings and other liquids you plan to use (such as wine, sherry, or milk). You can also add chopped, cooked giblets if you like. * Reheat the pan with everything in it, and let the gravy come to a slow boil. Season with salt and pepper and let the gravy boil for one minute or until it thickens.
If you decide to use cornstarch instead of flour as the thickening agent, use 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch per tablespoon of fat. Heat half the liquid and all the fat you plan to use in the pan, but add the cornstarch to the remaining, cooler liquid. Stir it in until smooth. Then slowly add the combined cornstarch and liquid to the pan, stirring as you go.