Okay, let’s be real here: we’re all college students, and most of the time it’s easier to just let our moms/aunts/grandmothers deal with the turkey. But, what happens this year if it’s Thanksgiving, and you’re the one left in charge of the turkey? There are so many recipes out there, but here are five tips to get you on the right track for that perfect Thanksgiving turkey.
1. Brine that bad boy!
You might have been taught to baste your turkey while you’re cooking it—which basically means you open the oven door a few times while it’s cooking to see how it’s doing—and you completely dry it out. Don’t do that! Instead, brine—a coating that usually has some combination of water, sugar and spices—your turkey overnight before you cook it and give it a quick coating of butter or oil before you put it in the oven. That way, your turkey stays moist throughout the entire cooking process.
2. Cook your stuffing on the side
Okay, I know that stuffing made inside the turkey absorbs the fat from inside, and it makes taste pretty darn good. But, putting that stuffing inside your turkey actually causes a longer cooking time for your turkey and can lead to dry white meat. Instead, cook the stuffing on the side, and fill the cavity of the turkey with things like onions and carrots. If you still want some of that fat on your stuffing, dribble a little bit off the sides of the turkey, and put the stuffing in for another five minutes or so.
Photo credit: Public Domain Pictures
3. Check the temperature at the thigh
So, the USDA agrees that all poultry must be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and considering turkey is a bird, it has to hit that point. So grab your thermometer, and don’t go near the breast with that thing! White meat—what poultry breast is—cooks faster than dark meat (thighs), and if you measure your breast at 165 degrees and take the turkey out, that means it’s still undercooked! Instead, measure the temperature at the thigh, so you can ensure you aren’t serving your guests undercooked dark meat.
4. Don’t cook the turkey at one temperature throughout!
Do you want dry meat? That’s how you get dry meat. If you want a nice, flavourful turkey, start cooking it around 450 degrees Fahrenheit for the first half an hour or so. Once it gets a nice brown skin on the outside, slowly lower the temperature to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit for the remainder of the cooking process. Quick reminder: the amount of time it takes for your turkey to cook depends on how much it weighs.
5. And finally, let that bird nap!
Okay, not really nap, but you are supposed to let the turkey rest for about 15 minutes before you carve it. Wrap it in foil, because the turkey will still continue to cook for a little bit after you take it out. The foil allows for all the juices to remain sealed inside. Once that’s done, you’re ready to carve your turkey.
Hopefully, these tips work for you all! If you want some more in-depth tips, check out BuzzFeed’s “17 Thanksgiving Turkey Mistakes Everyone Makes” or Food Network’s “10 Tips for Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey.” You ladies are going to crush it. I believe in you!