cooking tips

Don't be afraid of the turkey

These tips for preparing the perfect turkey will make you look like a pro, even if you are not.

Thanksgiving Cooking Tips

If you are a novice, Thanksgiving cooking and entertaining can be scary. Fortunately, you have a lot of resources to help you overcome this fear. You could purchase a precooked turkey or buy loaded party trays to fill your guests while you join in on the fun. Or, if you’re fed up with being the person that never takes on cooking a home cooked meal, you could surprise everyone by cooking the main dish…the turkey. Here’s how to get started.


Brine before you cook

For a juicier and tastier bird, brine (a.k.a. soak) your turkey before you cook it. Whether you’re roasting, frying, baking or smoking your turkey, brining works for all cooking methods and will enhance your turkey’s flavor. It’s also an easy technique that’s simple enough for beginners, but makes your turkey tender like you’re advanced.

Brining Items

Things you need to start brining

  • 5-gallon container (tub, stockpot or bucket)
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Large brine or oven bag
  • Large refrigerator*
  • Optional: Flavor (e.g. cranberries, fresh orange juice, clove & honey, maple & thyme or apple cider

*If you have a standard size refrigerator, simply store food in the freezer temporarily or remove shelves to make room for your turkey.

Tip: Always brine turkey in a food-grade, nonreactive container such as a stockpot or food-grade plastic bucket. Never use ordinary trash bags or containers not meant for food use.

Once your turkey has gone through the brining process, it’s ready to be prepared. Luckily you have an easy way to find your turkey-cooking might—roasting is great for beginners.


Get ready to roast

Roasting is a great way to begin your turkey journey and it won’t leave you discouraged. After your first success, you’ll have the confidence you need to cook a turkey for years to come. So be courageous and simply follow these steps:


Defrost or de-chill

If your bird is frozen you will need to defrost it for about 3-4 days depending on the size. Place the turkey in a pan to catch the drippings and then in the refrigerator to unthaw. If your bird is fresh but chilled, simply remove it from the refrigerator to unchill for 2-3 hours.


Remove the gunk

Okay novice, this is the not so fun part but before the mushy feeling sinks in, it will all be over. Remove the giblets from the center and rinse the turkey.

Preheat oven

Turn up the heat

Preheat your oven to 400° F.

Add Vegetables

Don't forget your veggies and personal touch

This is where you get to be a little creative. You’ll want to slather your turkey with lemon juice, a concoction of fresh herbs or keep it simple with olive oil and spices. Then stuff the bird with flavor inducing veggies like diced potatoes, onions, baby carrots and basil. Adding a few sprigs of rosemary outside the turkey will make you look like a pro as well.


Get ready to bind your bird

Place the turkey BREAST DOWN on a sturdy roasting pan. Make sure it has a rack and is big enough to catch all the drippings. Bind your bird from wing to wing with 100% cotton cooking twine.


Roast the turkey

Cooking time will vary depending on the size but the rule of thumb is about 15 minutes for every pound, so keep a timer handy. Put your turkey in the oven uncovered and roast it at 400° F for the first 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325° F for the next 2 hours. Finally reduce the temperature to 225° F until done, usually another half hour to an hour.

Rest and Carve

Roast the turkey

Let your turkey rest for 15-30 minutes, then carve and serve. Lastly, give yourself a “flap” on the back. You cooked your first turkey!

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