Amateur and even cooks with a little bit experience are often overwhelmed when tasked with preparing turkey for Thanksgiving. Perhaps it's the size of the bird, or the importance of the dish that makes them doubt their ability. But cooking turkey is a rather pleasurable experience - as long as you adhere to a few basic tips.
First you need to decide how big a turkey you will need to buy. It is wise to allot 3/4 of a pound to one pound for each person who you will be serving. If you are buying a frozen turkey make sure you allow adequate time to defrost the bird. You will want to let the turkey thaw in your refrigerator for two to five days to ensure that it is entirely defrosted. Turkeys that are still frozen on the inside will not cook through and through.
Once your turkey is ready to be cooked, it is good to rinse the skin then pat dry with a clean cloth. The inside cavities will need emptied of the gizzards and neck that are sometimes stored in them. These cavities should be rinsed and dried as well. Pre heat the oven while you are preparing the turkey. One way to cook a turkey that makes the process simple, the cleanup faster, and almosts guarantees a juicy turkey, is by using oven bags. If you decide to use an oven bag, add a couple of tablespoons of flour to the bag and shake well to coat before placing the turkey inside it. Follow the instructions for baking times and cutting air vents on the packaging of the oven bag.
You can do what expert chefs do to intensify the flavor by stuffing the turkey's skin with butter, herb, and spices. Just loosen it slightly by pinching and shifting it around with your hands. This will create "pockets" where you can stuff anything that will infuse the meat with flavor. You can then proceed to fill these with anything from butter, herbs, spices, juice, marinade mixes, even minced onions, apples, or garlic. Your turkey will end up more flavorful and it also helps it retain more of its natural moisture.
The stuffing is the area that often separates a great Thanksgiving turkey from a good one. People often reach out for the plate of stuffing as often as they reach out for a juicy piece of carved turkey. To indulge your guests, stuff your bird with a recipe that you got from Mom or Grandma. Put everything in and don't overfill so that you won't end up with a big mess. An alternative is to put in quartered apples and pears, chopped onions, and cloves of garlic as well as some herbs and spices to intensify the flavor. Be sure to account for the added time needed for all of this to cook as a stuffed bird takes a while longer.
You can use a wet rub or dry rub to flavor the turkey's skin. Use the same seasoning and marinade you used inside for a good harmony of flavor. Make sure to catch all the pan drippings so that you can make a rich gravy for later. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and let it sit a while before carving. Gather 'round the Thanksgiving table and enjoy!
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