“What are your best turkey tips?”

EatingWell - - MORSELS | IN ACTION -

Ev­ery year, the Eat­ing­well Test Kitchen cooks at least half a dozen birds for our hol­i­day is­sue—and I learn some­thing new ev­ery time. Like the year a turkey caught on fire and blew open an oven. (The recipe called for an en­tire bot­tle of booze in the bot­tom of the roast­ing pan. Drip­pings from the bird ig­nited the al­co­hol and BOOM!) So, I learned: don’t mix birds and booze... in­side the oven. Some other tips:

Buy ½ to 1 pound of meat per per­son.

A healthy por­tion of meat is 3 ounces cooked, which works out to ½ pound of raw, bone-in turkey per serv­ing. On page 78, we have a 12- to 14-pound bird, which yields 24 (3-oz.) serv­ings. Cal­cu­late what you need based on the num­ber of guests, plus your ap­petite for left­overs.

Plan on 1 day of thaw­ing for ev­ery 4 pounds of bird.

Yes, it re­ally does take this long. And al­ways thaw your bird in the re­frig­er­a­tor. Make sure the cav­ity of the turkey is thawed, too, not just the out­side. To test, get your hand in there (yes, in there): are there any ice crys­tals? If so, keep de­frost­ing.

To serve the juici­est bird:

Buy fresh if pos­si­ble. Frozen meat tends to leach more liq­uid when cooked—liq­uid you want to stay in the bird to keep it moist. Call ahead to see what your gro­cery or lo­cal farm of­fers. Brine it. Sub­merg­ing the bird in a salty liq­uid so­lu­tion (a brine) re­sults in juicier meat. Al­low 8 hours or up to one day for the turkey to brine. Check two temps. In­sert a meat ther­mome­ter about two inches into the thick­est part of the breast and the thigh with­out touch­ing bone. (If one’s not done, keep roast­ing.) Let it rest. Don’t cut into your bird for at least 20 min­utes. (No, it won’t get cold!) The juices will re­dis­tribute and stay in­side the meat—where you want them.

BREANA KILLEEN, M.P.H., R.D., is our Test Kitchen man­ager.

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