How to Bake a Good Turkey?
A tempting, moist, tender and juicy turkey is simply not easy to produce without prior planning, a little experience and the right recipe. But here are some instructions on how to cook a good turkey that is sure to pull you through this Thanksgiving.
Buying The Turkey
- Establish the number of people who are dining at home before purchasing your turkey. You should calculate close to 1 or 1 ½ pounds of turkey per person.
- Now, decide if you want to go for fresh or frozen turkey. Even though fresh turkey is expensive, it is easier to cook as you will not have to waste time on defrosting it and you will save a lot of refrigerator space.You can buy the bird the day before you are going to bake it provided you have reserved a turkey with your butcher as they usually don’t stock up on fresh birds. If you are picking up a frozen turkey then get your hands on the right sized turkey well in time.
Preparing the Turkey
- I prefer to thaw my turkey in the refrigerator. Assume that you need 1day for every 5 pounds of turkey, i.e a 25 -pound turkey will require 5 days to defrost thoroughly. Another method is to use a cold water bath. You should allow 30 minutes per pound. In this method the 25 pound turkey will require only 12½ hours to defrost. The cold water bath method or the microwave oven method is not safe as it encourages bacterial growth and contamination. So, it is best stay with the refrigerator method.
- Clean your turkey thoroughly by rinsing the bird well, in and out after taking the neck and giblets out. Sometimes the neck and giblets are wrapped in a plastic bag. You can just remove the bag then. Dry the cleaned turkey with paper towels.
- Preheat the oven at 325 degrees and make sure that the temperature is accurate.
- If you are preparing a stuffed turkey then prepare your stuffing and fill it loosely. Use ½ to ¾ cup stuffing for every pound of turkey. Tie the drumsticks together with string.
- Place the Turkey on a rack in a pan that is at least 3 to 4 inches deep so that it will hold the turkey juice effectively. Brush the turkey with butter.
- It is time to dress the turkey with some salt, pepper and other spices. Use the turkey dressing in your recipe. If the recipe asks for salted seasonings then avoid rubbing with salt initially.
- Insert a thermometer into the thicker part of the thigh ensuring that it does not touch the bone.
- Get a lid or tin foil to place over the turkey.
Baking a Good Turkey
- Pop the dressed turkey into the oven and bake it at 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. Baste the turkey every hour as it helps ensure even browning.
- For plain baked turkey assume that every pound of turkey requires close to 15 minutes of baking, which means that a 25 lb turkey will need to cook for about 6 hr and 15 min. For the last one hour remove the lid and aluminum foil to allow the browning of the turkey. For stuffed Turkey, add close to one hour to the original baking time. This means, that if your 20 pound turkey is stuffed then you will have to bake it for 7 and 15 min.
- You know that you are done with baking the turkey when the skin develops a light golden color and the temperature of the turkey meat is 165 degrees F. For stuffed turkey, check the temperature of the stuffing too. The stuffing should also be 165 degrees F.
- Once you are sure that the turkey is done remove it from the oven and let it stand for 20 minutes. The standing time allows the juices to redistribute over the meat and relax the turkey meat. This makes it easier to carve the turkey and when sliced, the meat will remain as slices and not fall over on to your kitchen counter.
- Always take care to wash your hands and kitchen counter tops when and after handling turkey to avoid contamination by bacteria.
- Be careful when using your oven because the cooking times are different from oven to oven.
- Your turkey can get dry if you over cook it or if you don’t cover it with a lid or aluminum foil at the beginning of the baking.
Here are some Thanksgiving Turkey recipes that you might enjoy.