Thanksgiving Time – A Few Turkey Tips
When we head into Thanksgiving, it’s time to start thinking about planning about that festive meal. The traditional meal is all about turkey (obviously), and for some it is just another…get your turkey, sort out what you’re having with it all on auto-pilot and away you go. For others, it is…ok, how big a turkey do we need this year, how long to defrost the turkey, how long to cook it and what about stuffing…I’d like to try something different.
Well, let me give you a few tips to help you on your way, and hopefully make your thanksgiving a just a little bit easier. I have broken the task down into a list that hopefully will make it clear for you.
- Turkey Size
- Defrosting Your Turkey
- Brining Your Turkey
- Stuffings For Your Turkey
- Cooking Your Turkey
- Carving Your Turkey
- Sorting Your Turkey Leftovers
This is a question I was always asked during my time in the retail butcher shops at Thanksgiving and also Christmas time. We had a good range of sizes available to cater for all family sizes and our customers came to us because they knew they could get that extra help in deciding this quandary and other ideas as well.
People often forget that when they cook a festive meal it is not just the main item on the menu. The table is always filled with other goodies and we would always ask these types of questions just to get an idea of what size turkey should be appropriate for the meal, not only for the amount of people. We wanted our customers to realise that we didn’t want them to go over board and get a “too big” turkey and then get stuck with many leftovers after the event. Basically we were saving them money and effort and that’s why we had a very good reputation as being great Gourmet Butchers and a great Gourmet Butcher Shop.
Below you will see a chart that we used to give our customers a head start and then with the questions we asked we would narrow down to what would suit them. Just do the same thinking yourself and workout what else you might have on your table on the day. Of course if you like having leftovers then adjust your size accordingly.
Defrosting Your Turkey…
There are really two way to defrost your turkey…one is in your fridge and the other is cold water defrosting. Both are great ways but defrosting in the fridge is best as the temperature control is a safer practice.
But if you’re running out of time, you can defrost the turkey in a sink filled with cold water. Thaw the turkey breast side down, in its unopened wrapper, in enough cold water to cover it completely. As you feel the water getting colder, because of the frozen turkey, change the water to keep the defrosting process happening, but only use cold water. Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per pound or 500 g for a whole turkey.
Below is a defrosting chart to save you calculating…
Have You Considered Brining Your Turkey?
Brining involves soaking a turkey in a salt and liquid solution, sometimes with other flavourings like herbs and spices or a seasoning mix. You need to brine the turkey at least a day prior to roasting, grilling, or frying. Brining adds flavour, helps keep it moist and helps the turkey retain its flavour during cooking.
It’s not a difficult process and you can find some ready Brine Kits at Amazon with all the ingredients ready to go, with easy step by step instructions on the process.
Brining is away of bringing something different to the table and creating a sumptuous meal. There are many seasoning recipes that can be added to a brine for a unique taste sensation and also bring entertaining conversation to the table. I have a few ideas on my Turkey Brine Recipes page you can check out.
A basic brine is quite simple…
- Two cups salt for 2 gallons/3.8 litres of water. (you can use Broth instead of water for extra flavour but cut back on the salt to only one cup)
- You can add sugar (up to 2 cups) and various spices of your choice like pepper, bay leaves, ready seasonings or spices as well.
- Add the salt and sugar to the water, stirring until they are dissolved. Then add the herbs, spices and seasoning stirring again to mix thoroughly.
- In a large container or plastic food grade bucket, pour the brine over the turkey. If you don’t have a bucket or container you can use a heavy plastic bag but make sure it is all sealed tight so no liquid can escape making a mess.
- Let brine overnight or up to 12 hours, refrigerated.
- Drain, rinse well and dry well before roasting.
There are a couple of downsides to brining but only minor ones…taking up fridge space and also juices from cooking might be a little salty to use for gravy.
Stuffings For Your Turkey…
Firstly, “To Stuff or Not To Stuff…That is the Question” You will hear many opinions on the subject from experts alike, but I tend to be not too fazed either way.
The turkey will cook quicker without the stuffing and adding time, because of stuffing your turkey, could dry it out because of the extra time needed to cook the stuffing all the way through. A simple tip is not to over-stuff the bird, by leaving a gap at the top of the cavity. Don’t pack the stuffing to hard and your turkey and stuffing will still cook through and still be juicy. But, it is just as easy to cook the stuffing on the side separately which makes it much easier to serve at the table anyway.
If you prefer the stuffing method, just make sure you only stuff the turkey when you’re ready to cook it. This is a safer practice as the more time that the stuffing sits inside the turkey, the more time it has of soaking any blood or juices from the meat and if the stuffing is not cooked right through you could have issues with bacteria.
There are a plethora of stuffing recipes on the internet and you can visit my Stuffing Page for some that I have used and had success with. Oh, and if you’re planning to cook your turkey outside on a grill or deep fried, then definitely don’t stuff your bird.
Cooking Your Turkey…
Cooking time depends on the size and I have a chart below with details on how long to cook your certain sized turkey. But there are few points to consider.
Some factors will determine the duration of the roasting, other than size. Things including, whether or not your turkey is stuffed and even if it hasn’t been thawed. ( yes you can cook a turkey while it’s frozen, but not my recommended method though) A stuffed turkey will take longer to cook through than a non-stuffed turkey, but not by that much. According to the USDA, a frozen turkey requires about fifty perfect more time in the oven than a fully thawed turkey. Another factor that people don’t consider, is that everyone’s oven is a little different. You know your oven best and sometimes temperature and time variations will differ and can have an affect on your roasting. Might be only subtle but it is a point to consider.
A little tip that I use, is that I keep my whole turkey covered with foil throughout the roast and un-cover for the last 30 minutes to brown the skin up nicely. This method has kept all my roasts moist and juicy and works well for me and my oven. Also pre-heat your oven so that it gets started cooking right away when you put the bird in. I pre-heat for about 10 minutes.
With all that in mind, just check the chart below for ease of calculations…
Might be an idea to get yourself a Temperature Probe as well for checking. You want your turkey to reach a minimal internal temp of 165 degrees F/ 75 C degrees to make it safe to eat. Amazon have a great selection.
Carving Your Turkey Like An Expert…
Carving is a bit of an art but hey…it’s really ok how you do it, after all you just need to get it to the table and I’m sure your guests and family will devour it anyway.
Not much really for me to say and just watch the video and you will get the hang of expertly carving your turkey into a masterpiece.
Video from Buzz Feeds…
Sorting Your Turkey Leftovers…
For some people, dealing with turkey leftovers might be daunting but for others, they enjoy having a few extra meals that can be made from leftovers that are still flavoursome and delicious.
With a little thought your leftover turkey can be turned into meals of there own but there’s always a question that concerns some people.
So how long can you safely keep Thanksgiving Turkey leftovers and also some of the trimmings?
I’ve made a chart with some information on the storage time for in your fridge and also freezer to put your mind at ease. It’s just a bit of a guide that should hold you in good stead. An important thing first though…you’ve got to ensure that your leftovers are being kept in a safe storage environment, meaning, that the cooked foods haven’t been in contact with raw ones and that the packaging to use is well sealed.
Most Thanksgiving leftovers will stay fresh and tasty for at least a 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator and about a month or so in the freezer.
Here are some general tips:
- Refrigerate leftover Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, gravy and other cooked side dishes within two to three hours of serving. It’s okay to place warm food in the refrigerator.
- Remove leftover turkey meat off the bones before refrigerating.
- Place the leftover turkey and stuffing in separate containers.
- Divide leftover turkey and other cooked dishes into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze in sealed shallow containers for quicker cooling and heating when needed.
The following is the shelf life chart of Thanksgiving leftovers, along with information for keeping them in best condition.
Ok then, I hope the information will help you through your Thanksgiving festivities and celebrations, and for recipe ideas pop on over to my Turkey Recipes,Turkey Brine Recipes and Turkey Stuffing Recipes pages where you will find helpful info on creating a meal to remember for your family and guests.
Don’t be shy and leave your recipe below or if you have a question feel free to ask. Always here to help. Enjoy.