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22 November 2003 @ 07:50 pm
so you folks are always hip and happening. and this is my first thanksgiving of my very own. and my family is full of dysfunctional and abusive schmucks, so i can't call and get mom's sweet potato recipe.

but my question involves The Turkey. i have never cooked a turkey before, or even a roasting chicken or anything like it. i was a vegan from the age of 14 until about 6 months ago (i'm 27), so the only cooking of meat i've done has been either chicken breasts using recipes, or tuna from a can. i don't really have any interest in red meat, but i will eat poultry and turkey.

so how the hell do you cook a turkey? i'm sure everyone has their own quirks about it, and i'd like to hear as many as possible to get an idea of something that fits for me.

Current Mood: curiouscurious
redkateherself on November 22nd, 2003 05:56 pm (UTC)
i just roast it in the oven according to the directions on the wrapper of the turkey, it depends on the size, but it takes about 5 hours.
i baste it with garlic butter about every 20 minutes...
Rockstargrrlrockstargrrl on November 22nd, 2003 05:58 pm (UTC)
:) thanks for the speedy reply.
redkateherself on November 22nd, 2003 06:02 pm (UTC)
you're welcome...and you do need a meat thermometer, just so you know that the turkey has reached the right temperature.
i like to cook my stuffing inside the turkey because it makes it really moist. i believe it tells you on any stuffing recipe when you're supposed to put it in the turkey.
Sparklehjem on November 22nd, 2003 05:58 pm (UTC)
I don't know how to cook a turkey either... I'm vegitarian, and before that I was just afraid of anything that didn't come in a box. But, I digress. The one *key* bit of info I've gleaned from hearing my Mother's First Thanksgiving story is that there are bags of extra bits in *both* ends (count them, two) of the turkey. They should both be removed before cooking... at least that's how my mom tells it! :-)

Also, I've seen some nifty meat thermometers that you can set for the particular type of meat you are cooking... so you set it to turkey, and it beeps when the turkey is done!
Kristenwyllow42 on November 22nd, 2003 06:15 pm (UTC)
The absolute best way to cook a turkey is to brine it beforehand! I did this last year and will never simply bake another turkey.

It's so easy... defrost the turkey in the refrigerator (or buy a defrosted turkey). The night before you intend to brine, which should be 2 days before you plan on cooking, combine about 1 cup of kosher sea salt (or any kind of salt) with a potfull of chicken or vegetable stock (I'd say about a gallon to two), half a cup of brown sugar, and a few pieces of candied ginger if you have it laying around. Bring it all to a boil so it blends together well and cool completely overnight. Then take your defrosted turkey and immerse it in the brine. Some people say to use a clean 5-gallon bucket, but since I didn't have one, I just stuck the turkey in a clean garbage bag, poured the brine over it and cinched out all the air. Place this in the roasting pan so nothing leaks all over the place and refrigerate overnight, at least 12 hours. The next day, take a cut up onion and a cut up apple and cover them in water. Cook in the microwave on high for 5 minutes and then pour into the turkey's body cavity. Bake the turkey per package instructions. I remember it taking a few hours at least, but the packaging will probably tell you how long per pound. It's also a good idea to try and bake it upside down to keep the white meat from drying out so much, but that's up to you. The brine makes it nice and salty, plus it stays VERY juicy! I hate dry turkey...

Good luck!
Miškamschaos on November 22nd, 2003 06:21 pm (UTC)
i *heart* brines
but I thought that might be a bit over whelming...

but brining is an excellent way to cook a bird
Kristenwyllow42 on November 23rd, 2003 04:24 am (UTC)
Re: i *heart* brines
It's SO easy! I had only cooked a turkey once before, and the brining was just so much better! It really doesn't take much work, just soak the bird. It's a lot easier than basting every hour. I won't cook a turkey any other way now. :)
Miškamschaos on November 22nd, 2003 06:20 pm (UTC)
do not use the popup thermometer
they suck and will just tell you that you have over cooked your bird

check out food network for a bunch of recipies...how big is your bird?

a 10-12 lb bird should take about 2.5 hours, not 5...more heat means less moist, and you want moist

check out here: http://web.foodnetwork.com/food/web/powerSearch/0,7822,Poultry__Thanksgiving___1,00.html

that is a list of various recipes...you have to wade through some of it, but they list from easy to expert.

a couple of tips:

use ameat themometer..it is a good investment anyway...the thigh should be at 165-170

brown at high heat (~450) for the first half hour to get some good color, then tent it with foil and lower the heat to 350 during the last 30 minutes you can untent it

a great way to add flavor is to use soft (not melted butter) mixed with herbs and then shove the butter mixture under the skin...this is great to keep the breast meat moist

don't stuff the bird with regular stuffing...use aromatics like quartered onion, some carrot, herbs and even citrus...and oack it loosely...you want the heat to get in there so it cooks evenly

after the bird has finished cooking, let it rest for a ~20 minutes and don't cut into it...if you do the juices will just run out and you will have a dry bird

so those are my tips

good luck!
crimsonblossom on November 22nd, 2003 06:40 pm (UTC)
be sure your turkey is completely defrosted before you start cooking it. clean it out completely, pulling out the bag of giblets and the neckbone.

i am told i cook a spiffy bird. modesty prevents me from claiming this outright in a community like this, though. here are some of my own basics:
- after rinsing out the bird thoroughly and stuffing it, i rub it down with oil, usually peanut oil, then rub minced garlic into the skin. i *always* throw out the giblets, etc. can't stand that stuff.
- i always stuff the bird, which makes it take a little longer to cook. before i stuff it, i put a whole scored onion into the bird. the onion's yummy after and it helps steam flavor into the stuffing and the bird. some people like to use apples instead.
- as mentioned before, i cook it at a higher temperature for about a half hour to give it some good color, then tent it. i remove the tent about 45 minutes or so before the end of cooking to really crisp up the skin deliciously.
- i baste routinely (every 15-20 minutes) using a mixture of unsalted butter, honey, broth and herbs/spices. as the bird cooks, i use its juices as well. i also baste the stuffing itself.
- when the turkey's done, i remove the breast skin (my family loves it crispy) and then wrap the whole turkey in three layers of aluminum foil for 5 minutes or so to "juice" the meat. this really seems to make a difference, the meat stays juicy all the way through, even the leftovers are juicy!

Rachelliakela on November 22nd, 2003 07:26 pm (UTC)
Make sure turkey is completely defrosted before you start working. Take out the giblets etc from the cavity (remember to check both ends-- often the organs are tucked into a bag on one end, and the neck is in the larger cavity), and put into a pot on the stove 1 part water 1 part dry white wine (taste the wine first. Can't tell you how horrid it is to accidentally use corked wine. Been there.). Put on low heat and simmer, adding water when it gets low. I like to simmer mine throughout the whole turkey-roasting time.

I rub the bird down with salted butter, leaving large chunks in the crevices. Next comes the rubbing of garlic and onion. I like to get a teaspoon or two under the skin (I use pre-chopped garlic that you get in a jar. It's fabulous for that sort of thing) and mash it around.

As for stuffing, yes, a stuffed bird takes longer to cook than unstuffed, but this is the king of stuffing. I always make a -huge- dish of stuffing on the side as well, but that in-the-bird stuffing is what gets served first, around the table. Everyone who likes it, should be able to have some, I think. Annnyway. I moisten the stuffing pre-insertion with hot water, butter and white wine (Yep, the same that's currently simmering the giblets). Little bit of mushrooms and some celery, and it really gives it a balanced flavor.

I like using a rack (it came with the roaster I use) because it keeps the turkey up and out of the drippings. Your mileage may vary.

Now, here's where most everyone I know differs. To cover or not to cover? I've heard good and bad arguments for both, but I like to do a combination of the two. I tent the turkey (the foil shouldn't touch the bird.. prevents sticking in the end), but make a really good seal around the pan. You'll likely have to fold two pieces of tinfoil together to make it big enough to do this. I'll bake it untouched, for all but 45 minutes of the bake-time. Then, the foil comes off, and I let it roast naked for those last 45 minutes.

The skin comes out a beautiful golden brown. The meat is just phenomenal.

Now, the gravy. Once the bird is done, you'll want to let it rest for about 30 minutes. This gives you -plenty- of time to make the gravy.

usually, the night before, I'll put a roux together so that I can just pop it out of the fridge when needed and add to the drippings. A roux is just basically flour and fat (oil or butter. I use butter, surprise, surprise. Gives an overall better flavor, to me) that you saute in a frypan until it's whatever color you like. The darker the roux, the less it's going to thicken your gravy, keep in mind. I like a nice golden brown. Gives enough of a nutty flavor (the toasted flour) and enough thickening. I make enough so that I'm left with about 1-2 cups of roux.

So, transfer bird to turkey plate. Here's where using the rack is handy, because you're then not going to have a -lot- of pooling on the plate of drippings.

Put the roaster on the stove (I use two burners, both on med-low) and get out your wooden spoon. Start stirring, moving the spoon over the baked-on bits that are on the bottom of the pan. You'll need to ladle out some of the giblet-water that's been simmering for hours and hours, into the roasting pan. This water will help to break down those bits as well. You're going to want to constantly stir the drippings/water mixture, until you can see that it's getting darker and darker as the baked on bits start to dissolve in the water. You don't want it to boil, so if med-low is making it simmer and boil, turn it down a bit.

Now start adding chunks from the roux and keep stirring. Mash any bits of roux into the bottom of the pan and add more giblet juice. Here's why you don't want the gravy to boil while you're doing this: As the gravy cools, the thickening will increase. So if you're simmering/boiling the gravy while you're working, and it gets to a thickness that you like... as soon as it cools, you're going to have to use a knife to slice off chunks of gravy. ;o) Eventually, you'll get to the dregs of the giblet juice, or you'll run out of roux. You're going to have a -lot- of gravy, but I promise you, it's going to be delectable.

There you go. My secrets exposed! Hope you enjoy, all ye who use.
Tracieathena8827 on November 22nd, 2003 08:36 pm (UTC)
you need a roasting pan and rack. Rinse the turkey, inside and out. Salt and pepper the turkey inside and out. If you don't care about organic, get butterball -- I've never had one of those fail.

I always use pepperidge farm stuffing (just follow the package directions - I throw dried cranberries in too)

stuff the turkey loosely. Don't cram in as much as you possibly can. You can always put extra stuffing in the oven in a cassarole dish to warm up after you pull the turkey out.

I rub a little olive oil all over the outside of the stuffed turkey, then sprinkle a little bit of poultry seasoning on top (it's already been salted & peppered. Some people insist on trussing it (tying it up and fastening it with skewers. I have never found it to be crucial.

Bake at 350, basting every 1/2 hour. The first time I baste, I use 1/2 stick melted butter. After that I use broth or pan juices.

Optional -- I make broth by putting the giblets and neck into a saucepan with 1 stalk celery, 1 carrot (both broken into pieces) and 1/2 coarsely chopped onion and 1 or 2 garlic cloves (coarsely chopped). I cover that all with cold water, and bring to a boil. A little bit of icky stuff will rise to the top at first -- skim that off & throw it out. Then add parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Let stock simmer while the turkey cooks. Use this stock to baste the turkey, then later you'll use it to make gravy. I always strain the stock through a very fine seive as I'm using it. My father never does. (throw out the neck & veggies after you use the stock, btw.)

The turkey is done when a leg is 170 and the stuffing is 160.

Tracieathena8827 on November 22nd, 2003 08:43 pm (UTC)
oh yeah, gravy!

I let the bird rest nearly an hour, btw. I cover it with foil and it stays just dandy. But 20 minutes is a minimum.

The pan is full of lovely drippings. I pour these into one of those fat separating thingies and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then I measure how much drippings I have and pour them back into the turkey pan with as little fat as possible. If I have 1/2 cup drippings, then I add 1/2 cup flour to them. On medium, I make a roux by whisking together the flour and drippings. I let that cook for a couple of minutes until it really bubbles, then I start ladling in that giblet stock, whisking and deglazing the pan (getting up all those cooked on bits). I keep going until the gravy seems like the right consistency, adding salt and pepper if needed. This makes a beautiful brown gravy that's pretty low in fat.

Water from cooking the potatoes also works really well in gravy (if you run out of stock), or canned chicken broth.

Good luck!!!
We are pants buddies!: Bjork prancing nakedunity33 on November 22nd, 2003 08:46 pm (UTC)
Haha, this isn't helpful at all, but when my uncle tried cooking a turkey by himself for the first time, he left the plastic bag with all the innards inside the turkey, and the whole bird smelled like melted plastic. What's worse, he actually called his mother, my mother, and every semi-domestic person he knew to ask what was wrong, so EVERYBODY ended up knowing about his fiasco. Chinese takeout, anyone?

Good luck with your bird. I'm a veggie so I'm of no help, but I'm sure the capable members of this community know exactly what to do.
JustHuman: Oiljusthuman on November 22nd, 2003 10:28 pm (UTC)
It's not the traditional roasted turkey, but it comes out really good and it's easy. You cook it overnight. I usually start it around 9pm or so.

Get a roasting pan place on the bottom, whole carrots, celery and halved/quartered onions. The veggies will be tossed at the end, so they don't have to be peeled and shouldn't be cut up to muck.

The veggies will serve as a rack. Clean the defrosted turkey by pulling out the bag and the neck...wherever they may be found. Rinse the inside cavity and then place on the vegetables. I usually toss the bag of goodies, but the neck can go down on the bottom of the pah with the veggies. Add a can of chicken broth to the bottom or about 2 cups of water. Cover tightly with lid or foil if you have to.

Heat the oven to 400 - Roast for 30-45 minutes.
Turn the oven down to a low temperature, around 300F. Let the Turkey cook covered overnight. In the morning, the whole house smells like turkey, it's fully cooked and falling off the bone. This turkey has been essentially steamed, so not crispy skin, but it's always moist.

Seperate the meat from the bones. In the bottom of the pan is concentrated goodness. Strain off the veggies and the liquid can be heated in a pot and thickened with flour or cornstarch. There's usually a ton of liquid - this is great for soup if you don't want much gravy.
elementalelementa on November 22nd, 2003 11:09 pm (UTC)
okay, you said you wanted different options...

For me, tg dinner is about the sides and dessert, not so much about the turkey. To make life easier you can buy a pre-cooked or smoked whole turkey - and then all you have to do is heat it up for an hour or so in the oven.

I've done this for the past few years and it has worked out well... much less stress, more enjoyment!
ex_whatsthes958 on November 23rd, 2003 12:54 am (UTC)
Just a quick tip from me;;;;;cook breast side down if your roasting in the oven,this prevents the breast from drying out.