“What are your best turkey tips?”
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.