by Kimberly Blackford
It’s just a few days before Thanksgiving and you are supposed to be entertaining everyone in your family this year. Of course, you would like to “wow” everyone with a Thanksgiving meal to remember. In fact, something really to remember! But, what can you do? In order to make a meal that will be remembered you have make sure the center attraction is the best it can be. That means, the turkey. Sure, you can try to “distract” your guests with fantastic side dishes, but ultimately it’s the turkey that everyone has been waiting for all year long!
Here are some of the best ways to cook a turkey and make your centerpiece of this family get-together shine.
Tips For Flavor and a Moist Turkey
There are many ways to infuse flavor and moisture into a turkey. We all have relatives who cook their turkeys far past their limit, thus creating a dry, tough bird. Here are some great tips and techniques for rewarding your guests with a delectable turkey this Thanksgiving.
Wet Marinade – All meats of any kind are better filled with plenty of moisture and flavor when they are marinated, and turkey is no exception. There’s a couple of ways to do this; a big pot or a food storage bag, but something that is airtight is the best choice. The marinade can be anything from beer and honey to apple cider and herbs; the options are limitless, really.
Dry Marinade – If a big container or storage bag is not the way you want to go for marinating, then why not try a dry rub? Create a blend of herbs and spices, like garlic salt, pepper, citrus peel, and other herbs and rub them on the outside of the turkey. These flavors will soak into the skin of the turkey resulting in a fresh, unique flavor.
Turkey Injection – If you aren’t a fan of marinating, then try injecting the flavors right into the meat by using an injection process. Start by using the same ingredients as a marinade, while also including butter for added moisture, and inject the marinade right into the meat in various areas of the turkey. Injectors have become popular in recent years, so they can be found just about anywhere.
Salt Water Brining – A brine is a salt water solution with several flavors added such as herbs, apple, onions and citrus, or perhaps exotic ingredients like mango, ginger and soy sauce. After soaking the turkey, be sure to take the turkey out of the brine for a few hours before cooking so the skin will crisp properly in the oven and never forget to rinse! If you do not rinse the brine off and out of the turkey, the meat will be too salty for your guests to enjoy.
Dry Brining – Just like the dry rub mentioned above, a dry brine is a salt-herb mixture applied to the outside of the turkey. Cover the turkey in the salt mixture and put in the refrigerator for a few days. This is easy, and an excellent way to get the flavor you desire in the end result.
So, your turkey has been seasoned to your liking using one of the various methods above. Now, what? There are many ways to get that “Norman Rockwell” picture perfect turkey to carry to your Thanksgiving table and here are the most common.
Oven Roasted – This is still the most traditional way you can cook a turkey because it is simple, flexible and provides juice for making excellent gravy. But, it can result in a dry bird; so keeping your eye on the oven is always a good idea.
Deep Fried – Becoming more and more popular each year, deep fried turkey has made a name for itself and the reason why is that it is a faster cooking method. Since it cooks in less than an hour and takes up zero room in the oven where often side dishes need to be cooked, many families are being drawn to this method. It also produces a moist, not greasy turkey. Deep fried turkeys have a reputation for being very moist since the moisture gets locked into the bird creating an unbelievably juicy turkey in the end. Some of the negative aspects of this process is that you need various pieces of equipment, a safe place outdoors, and you have to purchase several gallons of peanut oil, which can be a bit pricey.
Slow Cooking – This can be done in a crock-pot or on a very low temperature in the oven, which will make the turkey meat fall right off the bone. It is a delicious and interesting style of cooking, but you must have the time and patience for this.
Smoking and Grilling – If you’re lucky enough to have a smoker or large grill, then try this method. It results in a glossy, moist and wonderfully tasting bird.
If you have a turkey between 8 and 10 pounds, you’ll need to cook it at 325 degrees for 3-3 ½ hours for the best results. For a 10-14 pound bird, cook at the same temperature for 3 ½ to 4 hours. Most turkeys have cooking instructions on their packaging, or a butcher can give you a cooking time based on the size of the bird. Be sure that the thermometer reads 180 degrees when it is taken out and let it “rest” for 30 minutes before carving to maintain the moisture level.
Now, your guests will be ready for a real treat – something that can be bragged about all the way until Christmas. Then, they will want you to reinvent your Thanksgiving masterpiece!
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