As the holidays are upon us, so are the traditional celebrations and feasts. Of course, every feast could not be called one without a turkey. I have always liked turkey, which is kind of strange since both my grandmother and my mother made a dry and tasteless one. It looked really good, but unfortunately, all I could taste was the potential of a great tasting meat covered in gravy. I soon discovered that it did not matter who cooked it, it was always so dry and gravy was the hero of the meal. Now I love turkey since I have learned the problem and how to cook a juicy and tasty turkey. The secret? Well, actually, there are a few!
- Cook the stuffing aside, not inside! Traditionally, the stuffing is always cooked in the turkey's internal cavity. Good idea? Wrong!! In fact, it has been proven that stuffing will not only dry the meat, it will also provide little seasoning and become the perfect place for bacteria to feast. After all, some chefs also gave stuffing its nickname "the bacterial nest". Another problem with stuffing is that the exterior is dry and the interior is often not fully cooked. Avoid it at all cost. If you wish to eat some stuffing with your turkey, cook it separately and serve it on the side.
- Simplicity goes with seasonings the best. A turkey's seasonings are crucial, which is why it is best to keep it simple. Use half of a medium size white onion and one red apple. Cut them in large pieces. Throw away the apple core. Put them in a microwavable dish. Add a tablespoon of water and cover loosely with the lid. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Use fresh herbs: 1 branch of sage and 1 branch of rosemary. Use 1 stick of cinnamon. Put the onion and apple pieces in the turkey's internal cavity. Also add the cinnamon, the rosemary and the sage. It will be delicious.
- Massage your turkey! Use a thick coat of canola oil and massage your turkey thorougly, especially the extremities. This will ensure an even, golden appearance. It will definitely be the center of attention...and of the table.
- Marinating your turkey is part of the secret! Another tip to ensure eating a juicy turkey is to marinate it for 6 to 8 hours in a salty marinade as the salt will keep the moisture and juices in the meat instead of drying it out. A simple marinade would be 1 gallon (US) or 4 L of vegetable broth, 1 cup of Kosher or table salt, 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of peppercorns. Bring to a boil and refrigerate for at least an hour. During the marinating process, dip the turkey head-first in a large pail containing the marinade (brine) with 1 bag of ice on top. Rotate midway and add another bag of ice.
- The rule of the triangle. After covering your turkey with canola, use a sheet of aluminium foil and shape it as a triangle. Mold it on the breast of the turkey, then brush the inside with a thick coating of canola oil. You will use it after the roasting process, during the cooking process.
- Roasting the turkey is not a long process. Preheat the oven at 500 degrees Farenheit. Set the grill at the lowest level in order to fit you turkey inside the oven. Put the turkey on a rack, wings underneat the breast, and put the rack in a deep pan that will catch the drippings. Put the bird legs-first in the oven. Broil for 30 minutes, then lower the oven to the needed temperature for cooking. This process is basting-free.
- Never open the door! It doesn't matter if you are roasting or cooking the turkey, never open the door of the oven!!! Opening the door will bring the temperature down and will add between 15 and 30 minutes to the cooking time for each time that you open the door. This is not exactly the thing to do if your guests expect to eat turkey at 6 PM.
- Avoid easy-bake turkeys! Turkeys that baste themselves or come with a pop-up thermometer are a big no-no. You see, basting contributes to drying the meat as the juices come out of holes poked through the skin. Also, these thermometers are filled with chemicals that react to high temperatures. It means that the dark meat will be well-done but the white meat will be as dry as the Sahara Desert.
- Use a meat thermometer. The best way to cook a turkey perfectly is to cook it to the right temperature, which is 161 degrees Farenheit for the white meat. Use an electronic magnetic thermometer with a probe. Use it before roasting. Put the probe in the deepest part of the breast, at the front, alongside to the large middle bone. Don't poke more than once as the hole will let the juices out and will dry out the meat. Be careful not to touch a bone either as it will interfere with the real temperature and will give you a higher reading. Set the alarm. Set the oven at 350 degrees Farenheit.
- Cover up, rest and serve! Remove the turkey from the oven and cover it with either the lid of a large roasting pan, a lid for a barbecue or some foil. Let it rest for 5 minutes. The juices will flow through the meat and settle. This way, it will be tender and juicy all over.
Follow all these tips and your turkey will be the talk of the month and beyond. Unfortunately, you may become the one and only in charge of ever cooking a turkey for your family and friends. Despite you intentions, you will become famous for your turkey, so why not be known for how tasty, tender and juicy it is? Enjoy!