Tips, tricks for cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey

Use these tips for marinating, brining, roasting and roasting your Thanksgiving turkey.

COLORADO, USA — A perfectly cooked turkey as the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving meal can seem daunting.

But in reality, cooking turkey is actually pretty easy.

Here are some tips and tricks to make sure yours comes out perfect.

Baking Basics

Here are the basic steps for roasting a Butterball turkey:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Remove the giblet bag from inside the turkey. Drain the juices and lightly pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
  3. Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan*, breast side up. Turn the wings back. Brush or spray the skin with oil.
  4. Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer into the turkey. It should be placed at the bottom of the thigh without touching the bone.
  5. Start roasting the turkey.
  6. Once the turkey is about 2/3 done, cover loosely with foil to prevent the skin from burning.
  7. When you think the turkey should be done (check the estimated time below), check the temperature to be sure. When the thigh reaches 180°, your turkey is ready.
  8. Place the turkey on a plate and let it rest for 15 minutes.

*If you don’t have a rack, you can use vegetables or crinkled aluminum foil to hold the turkey on the bottom of the pan. This ensures that it cooks evenly.

Cooking time

The length of time it takes to cook your turkey depends on how much it weighs and whether it’s stuffed or not.

These are just estimates. Always watch the temperature to determine if your turkey is done cooking or not. When the leg reaches 180° and the breast or stuffing reaches 170°, the turkey is ready.

Brine

Brining the turkey before you roast it is a great way to make sure it stays moist.

As a general rule, you should brine your turkey for about an hour per pound, according to Butterball. Here’s how it works:

  1. The night before roasting, remove the giblets from your turkey and rinse it inside and out.
  2. Prepare your brine recipe. Mix the ingredients until all the salt has dissolved and cooled to room temperature.
  3. Place the turkey breast side down in the brine container or bag. It should be able to fit in your refrigerator and be made of food grade plastic, stainless steel or glass.
  4. Pour in liquid until it completely covers the turkey.
  5. Refrigerate for about an hour per pound of turkey.
  6. Remove the turkey from the brine. Rinse and gently dry. Bake as directed above.

Pickling

Where the brine is for keeping the turkey moist, the marinade is for adding flavor.

There are hundreds of recipes for turkey marinades: everything from spicy Cajun to sweet pineapple and teriyaki to rich bourbon and cola.

No matter what you choose, you’ll need about 1/4 cup of marinade for every pound of meat, according to Butterball.

Depending on the recipe, you will marinate the turkey for between two and eight hours. If it’s on the shorter end, you can make your marinade early so the flavors have time to develop before you add the turkey. And remember to never exceed eight hours to protect the texture of the turkey.

Always make sure the marinade is cool before pouring it over the turkey and marinate your turkey in the refrigerator.

Frying a turkey

If you’re not going to roast your turkey, deep frying has become increasingly popular over the past few years.

The fried turkeys are especially tender and moist, with a delicious crispy exterior.

Here’s how it’s done, according to Butterball:

  1. Remove the giblets from your turkey and make sure it is completely thawed. Dry. If your turkey is 14 lbs or less, it can be roasted whole. Otherwise, separate the drumsticks and drumsticks to fry them separately*.
  2. Add oil to your deep fryer. Do not exceed the maximum fill line of an electric fryer. If you’re using a propane fryer, you can figure out the amount you need by placing the turkey in the fryer, filling it with water until the turkey is covered, and marking the line.
  3. Heat oil to 375°.
  4. Dip the empty frying basket in hot oil for about 30 seconds, then remove it to prevent sticking.
  5. If using a propane air fryer, turn off the burner. Add turkey to basket and slowly dip in butter. If the turkey is not completely covered in an electric fryer, it will still cook well.
  6. Cook turkey for about three to four minutes per pound, then check the temperature. When the dark meat reaches a temperature of 175° F to 180° and the white meat reaches a temperature of 165° F to 170°, it is done.
  7. Lift the turkey in the basket from the fryer and place in a pan or on paper towels to drain. Let sit for about 20 minutes before removing from basket to carve.

*If you are frying your turkey pieces separately, they should be cooked in oil heated to 325°. This will take four to five minutes per pound.

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