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Turkey Tips

Whether this is your first or umpteenth time making a Thanksgiving feast, here are some helpful turkey tips for a dinner that may be a little different this year.

1. Planning

Plan Hero
Plan Hero

What size turkey will you need?
Figure 1 pound of turkey per person, or 1½ pounds if you want leftovers (and who doesn’t?). If you only need enough turkey for 2-3 people, consider a turkey breast instead.

Decide between a fresh or frozen bird.
This choice is about timing. Frozen turkey needs 1 day per 5 pounds to thaw in the refrigerator. Be sure to keep it in its original wrapping and place it on a tray.
If you must thaw your turkey faster, you can submerge it, wrapped, in cold water. Rotate the turkey every 30 minutes or so if it’s not fully submerged and change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold. Using this method, you’ll need at least 30 minutes per pound to completely thaw the bird.

Pick your cooking method.
And make sure to have the right tools. Oven-roasting is traditional, but your grill, smoker, deep fryer or Instant Pot can get you a juicy, flavorful turkey, too.

2. Preparation

A few details first.
There’s no need to rinse the turkey. Remember to remove the turkey giblets – they can be cooked separately, used for gravy or simply discarded.

Brining gets juicy results.
Some cooks like the wet brine method: Submerge the turkey in a large bucket or tub of saltwater solution infused with aromatic herbs and spices, like rosemary, black peppercorns, bay leaves and sage. The turkey must remain in the brining solution for 8-24 hours, at a temperature of no more than 40°F to ensure food safety (if you can’t fit it into the fridge, try an extra-large cooler and monitor the temperature regularly). Pat dry with paper towels before roasting.
Dry brining is the easier, quicker option. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels, then top with a mixture of kosher salt, herbs and spices. Sprinkle your spice mixture inside the turkey cavity, too. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours before roasting.

Butter that bird.
Before roasting, rub softened butter under and over the skin for golden, crispy deliciousness when the turkey’s done.

Place the turkey on a rack in a rimmed roasting pan.
If you don’t have a rack that sits in your pan, you can make one out of foil formed into a rope shape, or place the turkey on a bed of carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Roast the turkey at 325°F for about 20 minutes per pound. The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the turkey, close to but not touching the thigh bone, reads 165°F. Remove turkey from the oven and let it rest for at least 30 minutes - this allows the juices to redistribute. Cover loosely with foil to keep it warm.

3. Plate

Carving your turkey.
Start with a cutting board and an electric knife or sharp chef’s knife. First, remove the legs and thighs. Next, carve each breast. Start at the wishbone and slice lengthwise along the natural separation. Then, remove the wings. Slice the meat against the grain and arrange on your serving platter.

Add garnishes.
Whether you present your turkey whole or carved and plated, garnishes add real wow factor. Surround the turkey with leafy greens (watercress and arugula work well). Add colorful fruits like apples, oranges, pomegranates, cranberries or lemons, plus nuts in the shell and sprigs of fresh herbs.

Pro Tips

Expert Tips Hero
Expert Tips Hero

You can make fan-favorite stuffing ahead of time.
Add delicious extras like toasted pine nuts, pecans, currants, dried cherries, golden raisins, chopped apple, cranberries, bacon bits or crumbled sausage. And make sure to add plenty of liquid, like melted butter, stock, a splash of white wine, or even water, to ensure it’s nice and moist.

Rich gravy starts with roasted turkey pan drippings.
First, make a roux (a thickened paste) by whisking together about ¼ cup of pan drippings with ¼ cup of flour. Heat for a few minutes in a saucepan to “toast” the flour. Still whisking, add 2 cups of a liquid like stock, juices from the turkey, white wine or sherry, milk or cream. Keep whisking until thick and smooth, then season with salt and pepper. For a little extra help, be sure to check out the gravy how-to video below.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Gravy Hacks for Thanksgiving

Give your ready-made gravy a flavor boost when you add these delicious traditional ingredients.