Have you ever cooked a turkey? No? Well hosting your first ever Thanksgiving dinner should probably not be your first attempt to cook a turkey. Thanksgiving is a busy enough holiday and even if you’re super organized, there’ll probably be a little self-induced stress, even with a timetable, all of your recipes organized, and knowing your pantry has everything you need. I really don’t want you to stress about the bird, too.
Cooking a Turkey for Thanksgiving
Don’t get too worked up about cooking turkey, really it’s not any different than a really big chicken. If you are feeling any trepidation about cooking your first turkey, and you have never roasted a chicken, I highly recommend you start there.
Why not? You get the benefit of a great roast chicken dinner and you’ll feel more confident on Thanksgiving day.
Here’s a simple how to roast a chicken tutorial. And yes, I seriously need to redo the pictures, as that’s from 2007, well before I learned anything about photography.
So, once you have mastered roasting a chicken, it’s time to look over its slightly bigger cousin, the turkey.
Yes, I have a tutorial for that, too: How to Roast a Turkey. Keep in mind that you don’t have to truss your turkey, I just like the way it turns out. When I went to the Butterball University event last year, they recommend tucking the wings under the shoulders to give a the turkey more of a flat bottom which makes carving easier, but it’s completely a matter of personal choice. Butterball also recommends the more simple basic roast at 325°F for the entire time, instead of the initial high heat blast that I prefer. Again, it’s an each to your own kind of situation. If you prefer that method, Butterball has a great how to roast a turkey video.
Either way, you may need to tent the turkey with foil.
Now, if you are thinking of frying a turkey this year, I have a full tutorial on that, too: how to fry turkey. In this case, skip the chicken. Frying a whole chicken would be possible, but you’d displace a different amount of oil so the experience isn’t exactly the same. If you plan on taking the fried turkey route, buy a practice turkey and just enjoy that thing well before the holiday. You can certainly reuse the peanut oil, unless you burn it. As long as you’re careful you’ll actually be getting more out of your oil investment than if you only used it to fry the Thanksgiving turkey.
If you want to ramp up the flavor even more, consider brining your turkey. Rachel has a fantastic turkey brine recipe that I use as a basis for my own brines. I tend to vary the seasoning to match the rest of the meal. Now keep in mind if you choose to brine and fry your turkey, you’re going to have a very, very dark, probably unattractively so, turkey. That said, once you get under the skin, it’s amazing. If you roast your turkey after brining, your turkey will be darker brown and I suggest using the 325°F roasting temperature suggested by Butterball.
So there we go, an introduction to two basic methods of cooking turkey. How do you cook your turkey or is this your first year? If so, what cooking method are you considering?
Today on the company and cleaning front? Just make sure you’re keeping up with the daily chores -yeah the ones on the post-it note up there ↑. If you have overnight guests coming, you may want to figure out where they’re going to sleep and if you have enough sheets and bedding.
Are you Counting Down to Turkey Day with us?