Thanksgiving can be a land mine of a meal. While messing up the gravy could be considered an objectionable offense, serving a dry turkey automatically puts you in front of the firing squad.
If you’ve not a pro or if you're suffering a crisis of confidence from past slip ups, don’t worry. We’ve got sure- fire ways to make a juicy turkey every time so you won’t be staring down at a table of disgruntled diners.
1. Brine don’t baste
Throw that baster out. Basting, which is pouring the pan juices over the meat to keep it moist, not only ties you to your oven but all it really does is glaze the skin. Skip the basting and brine your bird instead. There are two types of brining: wet and dry. Wet brine is creating a spiced salted liquid mixture and submerging the bird in a huge bucket or pot kept in the refrigerator for about 16 to 18 hours (The basic brine ratio: 1 gallon water to 1 cup table salt). Dry brining means coating the bird with a seasoning and salt and letting it rest in a sealed plastic bag for three days. Both create a juicy, crisp-skinned turkey.
2. Stopping fussing
The key to a moist bird is to leave it alone. Go ahead, spice it, truss it (it allows for more uniform cooking), and put it in your preheated oven (it should cook at between 325 and 375 degrees F.). But resist the urge to keep opening the oven door and look at your handwork. Every time you open the oven reduces the chance your bird will cook evenly.
3. Half frozen, no problem
You can buy turkeys that are meant to go from freezer to oven, but read the cooking instructions carefully. But if you’ve got a frozen bird and you have to get it in the oven, use this simple rule. Start with the cooking time a thawed turkey of the same size would take to cook, then add an extra fifty percent. So for example, if a thawed bird takes 4 hours, a frozen bird will take 6 hours. Still pressed for time? Use a convection oven. They’re a great tool because cooking time is shortened by 10 to 40 percent, meat stays juicy and the skin gets crispy. Meats should be cooked on a rack in a shallow pan for maximum exposure and to prevent juices from being leeched out by the heat of the pan. Another way to cook the bird is from the inside. The Turbo Roaster steams the bird from inside while it cooks. Not only does it infuse the turkey with the herbs and spices stuffed in the cavity, it also helps cut cooking time. We tried it, it really works.
4. Don’t stuff it
It looks lovely in the magazines and you grandmother may insist that you stick to tradition, but don’t stuff that bird. In fact, many chefs think that stuffing a bird is evil. Why? The problem is making sure all critters that could possible carry those nasty food borne illnesses get cooked. Getting the stuffing to reach this 165 degree mark usually means overcooking the meat.
5. Don’t overcook that bird
I know this sounds obvious but pulling out the turkey at the precise moment is critical. You want to hit 165 degrees on your thermometer. Luckily there are lots of high-tech kitchen gadgets that not only tell you when the turkey will be done, but even predicts when it will be done. Crazy, I know. The Williams-Sonoma smart thermometer is a leave-in probe thermometer that is Wi-Fi enabled. The device monitors internal temperature of cooking food and predicts when it will be done.
6. Carve wisely
Don't ruin all of your hard work by carving the bird the wrong way and letting all of the juices leak out. First thing: let your masterpiece rest at least 20-30 minutes—tented in tin foil. When you’re ready to carve, start with the legs, wings and then breast. Be sure to cut the breast against the grain. Before you start check out these handy tips. Yes, it's nerve wracking but this will ensure you have a perfect bird that will have them drooling for more.