Don’t Know How to Cook a Turkey? We Got You Covered

Posted: November 13, 2022 8:55 am

There are so many reasons to love Thanksgiving. It’s a time to come together with friends and family, share a delicious meal, and reflect on all the things we’re grateful for. It’s a time to celebrate all the good in our lives and spend time with the people we care about most.

Thanksgiving is also a time for traditions. Families often have their own unique traditions that they look forward to every year. Whether it’s watching the Macy’s parade, playing football in the backyard, or preparing a bounty of food, these traditions add to the magic of Thanksgiving and make it special for everyone involved.

Thanksgiving is truly a magical time of year. And when you think about Thanksgiving, you think about turkey. But if you have never cooked a turkey before in your lifetime, it might be an intimidating venture. That said, everyone should learn to cook a turkey at some point, and there’s no time like the present — especially if you are hosting “Friendsgiving” this year. So if you’re down for the challenge and want to pull up those sleeves and get to work, we’ve got you covered. Here is how you can cook the perfect turkey this Friendsgiving.

Why Do We Cook Turkey on Thanksgiving?

The Thanksgiving holiday is rich in history. In 1621, the colonists in Plymouth and the Wampanoag Indians came together and shared a harvest feast that is now considered one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in America. The feast lasted for a few days, and it is said that they ate venison, fowl, fish, berries, fruits, pumpkins, and squash. There is no mention of turkey in accounts of this first feast, but it is thought that wild turkeys may have been present.

Flash forward to the 1800s, and turkey became a more popular choice for Thanksgiving dinners. In 1826, John Quincy Adams mentioned turkey in his diary as the main dish at his family’s Thanksgiving feast. By the 1850s, turkey was considered such an important part of Thanksgiving that Harriet Beecher Stowe even mentioned it in her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

So, while turkey wasn’t originally served at the first Thanksgiving feast, it has become a tradition over time. And now, every year on Thanksgiving, millions of Americans sit down to enjoy a roasted turkey as the centerpiece of their feast.

How to Choose the Right Turkey

One of the most important steps in cooking a perfect turkey is choosing the right one. When you’re at the grocery store, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you’ll need to know how many people you will be feeding. A good rule of thumb is to allow for about 1 pound of turkey per person. So, if you’re expecting 10 people for Thanksgiving dinner (or Friendsgiving), you’ll want to get a 10-pound turkey.

Next, you’ll need to decide whether you want a frozen or fresh turkey. Frozen turkeys are usually cheaper and easier to find, but they can be more difficult to cook. Fresh turkeys are pricier, but they will be more tender and juicy. If you decide to go the frozen route, make sure to give yourself enough time to thaw the turkey. It takes about 24 hours for every 4 pounds of turkey, so a 10-pound turkey will need to thaw for approximately 5 days in the refrigerator.

Once you’ve chosen your turkey, it’s time to get cooking!

What is Brining? And Should You Brine Your Turkey?

Brining is the process of soaking the turkey in a saltwater solution. This helps to keep the turkey moist and prevents it from drying out during cooking. While it does take some extra time, brining is definitely worth it if you want a juicy and delicious turkey — especially if you are preparing a fresh turkey.

There are two different types of brines — wet and dry. Wet brines are made with salt water, and dry brines are made with a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices. Both types of brines will help to keep your turkey moist, but wet brines tend to be more effective.

Wet Brine

To make a wet brine, you’ll need to dissolve 1 cup of salt in 4 cups of water. Once the salt is dissolved, add the turkey to the mixture and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (but no more than 24 hours).

Dry Brine

To make a dry brine, mix together 1 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Rub the mixture all over the turkey, and then refrigerate for at least 8 hours (but no more than 24 hours).

Prepping Your Turkey

Now that you’ve selected the perfect turkey (and brined it if that’s your thing), it’s time to prep it for cooking. The first step is to remove the giblets (the liver, heart, and neck) from the turkey cavity. These can be used to make gravy or stuffing, or they can be discarded.

Next, you’ll need to rinse the turkey inside and out. This will remove any excess salt from the brining process (if you’ve chosen to brine your turkey). Once the turkey is rinsed, pat it dry with paper towels. If you choose to stuff your turkey, then go ahead and stuff the cavity with your favorite stuffing recipe. You can also add some chopped onions, celery, and carrots to the cavity for extra flavor.

To Stuff, or Not to Stuff

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to stuffing the turkey. The turkey purists believe that dressing should and must be cooked inside the turkey. If dressing is not cooked inside the turkey, then they refuse to call it “stuffing.” That said, there are some health considerations to take into account if you choose to stuff your turkey. First, it’s important to make sure that the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill any harmful bacteria. If the stuffing is not cooked inside the turkey, then you’ll need to cook it in a separate casserole dish. This means that you’ll need to allow extra time for the turkey to cook since you’ll be cooking two dishes instead of one. Additionally, stuffing the turkey can make it more difficult to achieve evenly cooked meat. If you choose not to stuff your turkey, then you can simply place some onions, celery, and carrots in the cavity for extra flavor.

How to Cook a Turkey

Now it’s time for the fun part — cooking the turkey! There are a few different ways to do this, but the most important thing is to make sure that the turkey is cooked all the way through. The best way to do this is to use a meat thermometer. The turkey is done when the thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F.

Roasting the Turkey

Roasting is the most common way to cook a turkey. To roast your turkey, start by preheating the oven to 325°F. Then, place the turkey in a roasting pan, and roast it for about 15 minutes per pound. So, a 10-pound turkey would need to roast for about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Grilling the Turkey

Grilling is another option for cooking your turkey. To grill your turkey, start by preheating the grill to medium heat (about 325°F). Then, place the turkey on the grill and cook it for about 15 minutes per pound. So, a 10-pound turkey would need to cook for about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Smoking the Turkey

Smoking is a great way to add flavor to your turkey. To smoke your turkey, start by preheating the smoker to 250°F. Then, place the turkey in the smoker and cook it for about 30 minutes per pound. So, a 10-pound turkey would need to cook for about 5 hours.

Give Your Turkey a Rest

Once your turkey is cooked, let it rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. This is a very important step that often gets overlooked. The reason you want to make sure your turkey is well-rested is that it allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. If you carve the turkey too soon, all of those delicious juices will run right out and your turkey will be dry.

Carving the Turkey

Now it’s time to carve the turkey! Start by removing the legs and thighs. To do this, cut through the skin that connects the leg to the body. Then, pull the leg away from the body and cut through the joint that connects the thigh to the rest of the leg. Repeat this process on the other side.

Next, remove the wings. To remove the wings, cut through the skin that connects the wing to the body. Then, pull the wing away from the body and cut through the joint that connects the wing to the rest of the bird. Repeat this process on the other side.

Finally, remove the breast meat. To remove the breast meat, start by cutting along one side of the breastbone. Then, continue cutting until you’ve removed the entire breast from the body. Repeat this process on the other side.

Serving the Turkey

Even if the turkey comes out a little on the dry side, your turkey presentation can elevate the Thanksgiving dinner centerpiece to exponential levels. Here are some ideas on how to make a beautiful turkey presentation:

• Place the turkey on a large platter and surround it with fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme.
• Garnish the platter with cranberries, pomegranate seeds, or oranges.
• Arrange roasted vegetables around the turkey.
• Drape the turkey with crispy fried sage leaves.
• Place the turkey on a bed of greens like arugula or watercress.
• Garnish the platter with sliced fruit like apples, pears, or figs.

Final Thoughts

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends and enjoy all of the delicious food that comes with the holiday. But let’s be honest, the turkey is really the star of the show. So, make sure you follow these tips on how to cook a turkey, and you’ll be sure to impress your guests! Happy Thanksgiving!

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