Talking turkey: Time to make some decisions
How much to buy It all begins with how many people will be having dinner around your holiday table. If it's a big bird that you want, for example, Butterball recommends 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person for generous servings and leftovers. Wait until Tuesday to buy a fresh turkey, which should be cooked within a couple of days of purchase. If you're going the frozen turkey route, you'll need to do some math to figure thawing time. For every 5 pounds of bird, plan on 24 hours in the fridge. So, a 20-pound turkey should be in the refrigerator by Sunday morning to be ready to go into the oven on Thanksgiving. The more manageable 12-pounder should be in the fridge by Monday evening at the latest. If the bird is still frozen on Thanksgiving morning, keep the turkey in its wrap in a clean sink and cover with cold tap water. The turkey will thaw at a rate of 30 minutes per pound. Change the water a few times.
Cooking techniques For some folks, the idea of grilling a turkey or frying a turkey helps address the lack of oven space. Gas or charcoal grilling adds a distinct smoky flavor to turkey and can reduce the cooking time, according to the Spice Hunter. Be sure to season well inside and out, but don't stuff the bird. Bake the stuffing in a separate dish. When grilling, estimate 15 to 18 minutes per pound. Place a drip pan on the grill grate to catch drippings from the turkey and to prevent flare-ups. Use the rotisserie if you have one. During cooking, add water to this pan periodically to maintain a moist environment in the grill, advises Cal Flame. A rotisserie via the George Foreman Grill or other countertop model can provide an easy, countertop way to roast a small turkey evenly. Brining has become a popular way to prepare turkey. Brining involves a strong solution of salt and water with herbs, spices or sugar to preserve the flavor. During the cooking process, meat can lose up to 30 percent of its water. Properly brined and cooked meat can reduce the water loss by as much as half. Brining a turkey in the refrigerator takes a day. Make a wine brine or a white cranberry juice brine or a honey brine. When you add sugar, it does make the turkey brown faster. Read on for help with traditional oven roasting.
Cooking tips No matter what cooking technique you use, turn the turkey's wings back to hold the neck skin in place. This levels the turkey in the roasting pan to encourage even cooking and make carving easier. Butterball recommends a 325-degree oven when roasting a turkey. Use a meat thermometer and cook turkey to proper temperature (180 degrees in the thigh and 165 degrees in the center of the stuffing, if you choose to stuff it). Be sure the meat is done around the bone. Once the turkey is done, remove it from the oven or grill and transfer to a cutting board. Cover with foil and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Use the time to complete side dishes.
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Roast Turkey With Cranberry Orange Glaze
3/4 cup orange marmalade
3/4 cup frozen cranberry juice, concentrate, thawed
3 tablespoons maple or maple-flavored syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (14- to 16-pound) turkey, thawed if frozen
Cooking spray or vegetable oil to brush turkey
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine marmalade, cranberry juice, maple syrup, vinegar and salt in small, heavy saucepan. Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently for 12 to 15 minutes or until glaze is reduced to 1 cup.
Remove neck and giblets from body and neck cavities; discard or refrigerate for another use. Drain juices from turkey and dry it with paper towels. Turn wings back to hold neck skin against back of turkey.
Place turkey, breast side up, on a flat roasting rack in a shallow pan. Brush lightly with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Roast for 2 hours and then cover breast and top of drumsticks loosely with foil to prevent overcooking of breast.
Divide glaze into halves. Continue roasting turkey for 45 minutes, remove foil and brush generously with half of glaze. Return foil loosely to top of turkey and cook for another 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 180 when inserted into deepest part of the thigh.
Brush with remaining glaze. Let stand 15 minutes before carving.
Butterball: toll-free 1-800-288-8372; www.butterball.com
Online Turkey Basics tutorial at www.honeysucklewhite.com.
The Crisco Pie Hotline, toll-free 1-877-367-7438, has baking tips, time-saving hints and the opportunity to talk to a live expert. Home cooks can go to www.crisco.com for tips and instructions on making pies.
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: toll-free 1-800-535-4555.
Give it a rest: When you take the turkey out of the oven, tent it with foil and let it stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to be absorbed into the meat.
Stay safe: To keep your cutting board from slipping while carving, place a dampened paper towel or thin kitchen towel under the board. Use a cutting board with grooves to catch juices.
Sharpen your knife: A sharp knife is a must. You can tell if yours is sharp by using it to cut paper. It should slice, not tear. If it's not sharp, use a sharpener to produce a fine edge.
Saw, don't rip: Carve with long, light strokes. Bearing down will shred meat rather than cutting it cleanly.
Finally: Neat rows of sliced turkey, artfully arranged, set up your bird as the luscious star of the table. Keep the platter decoration simple; perch a bowl of roasted fruit or herbs to one side and call it done.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens
BBQ Spice-Rubbed Turkey Breast
2 (3- to 3 1/2-pound) fresh or frozen bone-in turkey breast halves
Nonstick cooking spray
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Thaw turkey, if frozen. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large roasting pan and rack with cooking spray. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, salt, cumin, chili powder and pepper.
Slip your fingers between the skin and meat of breast halves to loosen skin, leaving skin partially attached at edges. Lift skin and spread brown-sugar mixture evenly under skin over meat. Place turkey breast halves, bone sides down, on rack in prepared pan. Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast half. Thermometer should not touch bone.
Roast, uncovered, on lower rack in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350. Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours more or until the thermometer registers 170 degrees and turkey is no longer pink, occasionally spooning pan juice over turkey. Cover loosely with foil and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
Makes 8 servings.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Anyone Can Cook
White Cranberry Brine
2 (64-ounce) bottles White-Cranberry Juice Drink
1 gallon water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, crushed
8 bay leaves
Mix all ingredients in large pot until salt and sugar are mostly dissolved. Submerge turkey in brine. Fill 2-gallon-sized resealable bags with ice. Place in pot with turkey. Marinate turkey for 12 to 18 hours refrigerated. Discard marinade. Dry turkey with paper towels and grill or roast as desired.
Makes enough for an 8- to 16-pound turkey.
Sources: Ocean Spray; Better Homes and Gardens Anyone Can Cook