You’ve decided to go all out and roast a traditional turkey for Thanksgiving. Now you have to figure out how. Here’s some ideas for making that cooking project a little easier and more dependable.
Brining. This salt-water bath for the turkey and lots of other meats can be a challenge for the bachelor. What are they going to put the thing into? When brining first became popular, a clean five-gallon bucket (such as that used for paint and other products) was the preferred vehicle. But how can you get that into your home refrigerator? There are two good solutions to this problem.
First there’s a new product on the market called a brining bag. Essentially, this is a very large zipper-style plastic bag such as one would use to store leftovers. It allows you to use a shallower container, which can fit in the fridge, to hold your brining bird.
Still don’t have room in the ice box? Well, there’s an answer to that, too. Use a chest style camper cooler. Just add plenty of ice to your brine and check that the temperature is below 40ºF throughout the brining time. Bon Appetit Magazine has some tips on this method.
Frying. This method of cooking a turkey has become increasingly popular in recent years. It’s also been a source of many home fires and injuries. Think about it: you’re putting a large hunk of meat into an outdoor contraption filled with boiling hot oil over an open flame. What could go wrong? Not only is there a fire danger, but you have to invest in five-gallons of cooking oil and you have to find a way to dispose of it when you’re done.
Is it done? This is a good question for all kinds of cooking. But it is especially important when you’re serving your efforts to other people. I am always amazed at how many home cooks don’t use a food thermometer. This is an inexpensive, easy, quick way to find out if your turkey, or any other main dish, is ready to come out of the oven. There are more expensive, digital models and cheap stick types. Either way, this is not an option! Just use one. And don’t depend on one of those silly pop-up timers some turkeys use. They are usually inaccurate and can allow important juices to be lost.
Be sure to use your thermometer correctly. Take readings at multiple places around the turkey. In the breast, the temperature should be about 160-162ºF. Check both sides of the bird. In the sides, below the breast but above the thigh, the reading should be at least 162-165. And in the dark meat, either the thigh or the thick part of the leg, it should be 170-175. Proper brining and cooking methods should ensure your turkey isn’t dried out.
Rest. When your turkey comes out of the oven, put it on your cutting board first for a few minutes. If you want to show it off while it’s still whole, transfer to a serving platter and take it out to your guests so they can see the glorious product of your hard work. This also serves as a way to call your guests to the table. Then return the turkey to the kitchen and the cutting board and let it rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t worry, it won’t get too cold. Besides, that’s what gravy is for, to heat up the meat.
Carving should be done in the kitchen. It can get messy. In the kitchen it’s safer and cleaner. Then spread the carvings artfully on your serving platter.
The important thing to remember is that Thanksgiving is holiday and it should be enjoyed by all Americans, even the cooks. And especially the bachelors!