Let's Talk Turkey!
First of all, today marks the first day of Thanksgiving week. Up to this point, hopefully you have sent out invites, have a headcount on who will be gathering around the table, and most importantly, the menu is locked in and maybe even shopped for!! Oh, and the turkey is ordered or defrosting as we speak. Wherever you may be in the countdown till Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to share everything there is to know about Turkey. From de-thawing to cooking, resting and carving – coming in tomorrow’s “Tip of the Day Post” – I have you covered!
De-thawing: It is crucial that your bird is thoroughly and safely de-thawed before you cook it. Putting a half frozen bird in your oven will no doubt result in a less than ideal outcome. I usually place my freshly never frozen bird in the fridge for a few days before cooking and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours before placing it in the oven. This way, I know it will evenly cook, and perfectly at that. I also want to note, even if you buy your bird fresh and never frozen, it may seem slightly frozen. This is because your bird went through a deep chill (not to be confused with fully frozen) and is just that, really cold! This bird still needs to be de-thawed but won’t take nearly as long. This is good to know if you are planning on picking up your bird the day of. Simply ask what state your bird will be in and if they can defrost it for you. Most stores have huge sinks and can run cold water over the bird to expedite this process for you. It’s worth asking
Cooking: There are thousands of recipes that all claim to have the most deliciously moist and flavorsome turkey, but the truth is, they are all good (for the most part). What really makes a turkey delicious is yes, the recipe, but also the type of bird, whether it was previously frozen, how it was de-thawed, and what it was fed. We must look back to the condition in which it was raised to determine the quality of bird. They say, we are what we eat, and in some ways that is true. What I am really saying however, is that whatever that turkey ate and the lifestyle it endured will greatly impact its overall taste. Fair enough, right? The key to a perfectly cooked turkey is by the notion, “less is more.” In other words, salt and pepper, melted butter with rosemary, thyme and sage – what I usually use – covering the bird and fresh aromatics tucked inside, will help yield tremendous flavor. In addition, using the best quality butter you can (unsalted) and fresh herbs instead of dried, will also help. Every little bit makes a difference! And last but not least, that crispy golden brown skin is where the real flavor is at! I start my bird on high heat (around 400ºF) to develop the carmelization, then lower the heat to 350ºF allowing the rest of the bird to cook. And that’s it! It may seem intimidating but imagine your turkey as a large chicken, roll up your sleeves, and take it on like you are in complete control; which you are! Last but not least, it is absolutely CRITICAL that you invest in a good quality instant-read thermometer (or 2 or 3) that will tell you exactly when the turkey is done. Too often turkeys are overcooked by our own fear of pink meat. Simply use a few thermometers in different parts of the bird to make sure they are reading the same number. The dark meat should register 170-175ºF and white meat 165ºF. Remember, carry over cooking will occur as it rests.
Resting: Beside the way the turkey is cooked, how long it rested before you started carving is the second factor. Let’s talk science for a second. When your turkey cooks, juices (aka flavor) are released through the natural cooking process. If you carve into the turkey before the juices have settled back into the turkey, they will flow out on your carving board (aka there goes your flavor). The general rule of thumb is to allow meat to rest covered with foil for half the amount of time it cooked. Before you say anything, I get it! How exactly will that work when your turkey takes 2 plus hours to cook? For your turkey, I recommend at least 30 minutes, but 45 minutes is ideal! This concept, resting half the amount of cooking time, applies to every protein that you cook from seafood to steak.
Tomorrow I will be sharing great tips on carving your turkey. If you have any other questions on buying, storing, preparing, or cooking your turkey, let me know! I am here for you every step of the way. Now, let’s gather around the kitchen and make this the best Thanksgiving yet!
Cheers to starting a new tradition around the table together!
Founder and true believer in the power of bringing people around The Table Together!