Donna’s Turkey Tips
This is a summary of Donna’s turkey cooking tips.
Purchase your turkey far enough in advance to allow it to completely thaw out in the refrigerator. You will need 1 day for each 4 to 5 pounds of weight.
On the day of cooking, remove turkey from the outer bag. It is best to do this in the sink to prevent contaminating counter tops. Remove the bags of giblets and neck pieces from the inside of the bird.
Wash your hands. It will be very important, especially this year, to handle the turkey carefully to prevent cross contamination with other foods. Consider the turkey to be a salmonella source and it can spread bacteria to areas that it touches. Be assured that the salmonella will be destroyed in cooking. As long as you cook the turkey to at least 165 degrees in the thickest areas, it will be safe to eat.
Grease the bottom and sides of the baking pan. Place turkey rack in baking pan. Spray rack with cooking oil spray.
Place washed and drained turkey on the rack in the pan.
Rub turkey with canola oil.
Wash your hands and any utensils that were in contact with the raw turkey.Using soap and hot water, wash the sink and any countertops that were in contact with the turkey.
Insert thermometer into thickest area of the inner thigh. This is a part of the turkey that cooks the slowest and is also one of the thickest. The thigh is just below the drumstick. Insert the thermometer parallel to the body of the turkey. You should feel some resistance as it goes into the meat. If it suddenly slides very easy, that means you may have poked through into the turkey cavity. If you hit something, that means you have hit a bone.
Sprinkle the breast and leg area with pepper and seasoned salt such as Lawry’s salt. You may also sprinkle lightly with paprika.
Loosely tent the breast and leg area of the turkey with aluminum foil. Do not wrap it tightly. Cover the cavity opening with foil.
Place turkey in preheated oven at 325 degrees.
Remove the foil for the last hour of baking. If the breast is not brown when turkey is almost done, turn oven up to 400 degrees or put under the boiler for a few minutes and bake until the breast is beautifully brown. Watch carefully.
General guide for unstuffed turkey.:
12 – 16 pounds 3 – 3 ½ hours
16 – 18 pounds 3 – 4 hours
18 – 20 pounds 4 – 4 ½ hours
20 – 24 pounds 4 ½ – 5 ½ hours
Bake until temperature reaches 165 degrees deep in the thigh. It will continue to cook a little more after taking it out of the oven.
Do not rely on a “pop up” temperature button. Always check with a thermometer.
Remove turkey from the oven, cover with a towel, and let set for at least 30 minutes to allow the juices to distribute throughout the turkey. This is an important step to make sure you have a wonderful juicy turkey.
Note that it is best not to cook your turkey with the dressing inside the turkey cavity. When a turkey is large, it takes a long time for the temperature of the stuffing to reach a safe temperature. It is much safer to cook the dressing in a bowl in the oven. If the dressing is prepared with chicken broth, it should be just as tasty.
To make gravy, remove the floating melted fat. One way to do this is to pour the turkey drippings into a gravy separator. Return turkey drippings to the pan. Add additional chicken broth or water if you would like more gravy. Bring mixture to a boil.
In a jar or shaker, combine 1/2 cup flour with 1-1/2 cups cold water or canned chicken broth. Shake well and slowly pour flour-water mixture into the pan while stirring constantly over medium heat. Bring to a boil. If thicker gravy is desired, make another mixture of flour and water. Be sure to stir the gravy as you add the flour and water mixture to the boiling drippings. Continue to boil several minutes while stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy the day and enjoy the leftovers!
You can find information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about how to safely handle cooking your bird online here.
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