Dear Home Ec 101,
In the bottom half of my freezer lies a turkey that’s been sitting
there since mid-December. We got it free as a grocery store give away and I
can’t bring myself to defrost that bird yet. Mostly because I don’t know
what to do with it once I get it defrosted. I’ve never cooked a turkey by
So how exactly DOES on prepare a turkey? Any special tips, hints, what NOT
~I’m No Turkey
Cooks will argue from dawn until dusk about the best way to prepare a turkey. For special occasions, I am a huge fan of deep frying. Pardon me, is my neck showing? You will be proud to know I have neither set anything on fire nor overflowed the pot, ever. I learned the technique from a friend who has since passed on, but I think of him on the holidays. I’ll cover this method on another occasion, since it’s not exactly convenient. Aside from frying, this is my personal favorite. Although I am sure there will be plenty who are willing to pitch their ideas or just disagree vehemently on principle.
When defrosting your turkey be sure to allow it enough time to defrost completely. Allow 24 hours for every 5lbs of turkey to thaw in a refrigerator set at 40F. Just as an aside, in a deep freeze your turkey is safe almost indefinitely, it just won’t feed your family in that state. Always check defrosted meat for “off odors.” A raw poultry smell is fine (not exactly pleasant in and of itself), but anything rancid or foul needs to be tossed, it isn’t worth the risk.
For my turkeys I use:
- 1 stick butter
- 1/4 cup Cajun seasoning (I especially like Chef Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic)
- 1 rib celery, 1 carrot, 1 onion – cut into large chunks
- roasting pan large enough for your turkey- If you don’t own one the aluminum ones are fine.
- aluminum foil
- cooking twine – for a nicer presentation, it’s not a necessity
Rinse the turkey under cold running water and pat dry. Take this time to remove the giblets (my opinion still hasn’t changed) and discard any missed pinfeathers.
Adjust your oven racks to ensure the bird has plenty of room in its roasting pan and preheat the oven to 500F-no, that’s not a typo- soften the stick of butter. Fine, so this recipe isn’t going to be endorsed by the American Heart Association. With clean hands slather the bird with the butter, rub it into all the nooks and crannies, and as far under the skin as you can get. Now do the same with the Cajun seasoning, sprinkling any remaining seasoning into the cavity.
Loosely insert the onion, carrot, and celery into the cavity – do NOT pack it- and truss the bird. Place the turkey in your roasting pan and wash your hands thoroughly. When the oven reaches 500F place the bird inside and set a timer for 20 minutes. After the time has elapsed, reduce the heat to 350F and tent the breast with aluminum foil.
*Novice Tip* Tenting means to loosely cover! Do not tuck the foil tightly against the meat.
Your turkey is done when the breast reaches a temperature of 165, the thigh should be 170. For a 14-16lb bird expect 2 to 2 1/2 hours cooking time. Remove your pan from the oven and allow the bird to sit loosely covered for at least ten minutes before carving.
You may freeze leftover cooked meat for future recipes and don’t forget that the carcass can be used for an excellent stock.