I know, I know — you think I have my seasons all mixed up. It’s March and I’m cooking a turkey? Well, my husband got this 12-pounder for free back during the holidays and since we didn’t entertain at our house, it just went into the freezer. So this week we decided to pull it out and give it a go. This is my first turkey I’ve cooked all by myself, so let’s just say there was a learning curve and plenty of Google searches about how to cook a turkey, tips, tricks and recipe ideas, and later on, how to know your turkey is cooked.
So I’m not a turkey expert, but I certainly learned a lot through this and it turned out delicious! So here are my tips for cooking a turkey.
1) Cook it breast side down.
I found this turkey recipe that suggested it and used it as the base for my recipe. The breast isn’t as exposed to the heat, so it doesn’t dry out so much, plus gravity brings the juices to the bottom. I’m a dark meat girl, but the white meat was so juicy this way, I almost like it better than the dark.
2) Cook the stuffing separate for faster cooking.
Or not at all. You still want to stuff it with vegetables and spices, but adding stuffing means it has to cook longer and, therefore, it can sometimes dry out more. I put onion, carrots, celery, garlic and fresh parsley in mine. To some of you, this may sound like a sin, but since I don’t love stuffing that much anyway, so I was okay with skipping.
3) Stuff goodness between the skin and the body.
Slide your hand between the skin and the body of the turkey, gently pulling them apart until your hand fits in. Then add spices. I put chopped garlic and parsley in mine. It was a good decision.
4) A cookie rack on a baking sheet is a good replacement for a roasting pan.
This being my first time making a turkey, I didn’t have a roasting pan. Somehow I must have missed that “must-have” on my wedding registry back when I got married. Anyway, the bird simply needs to be away from the direct heat of the pan, so I put a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet instead. If you use a cookie sheet, just make sure it is deep enough to catch the juices (I used a disposable pan on top of a sturdy regular one because I’m that lazy). Works like a charm!
5) You’ll know your turkey is done when the leg pulls away from the body easily.
If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be 165 degrees and the juices should run clear. My thermometer was reading to the right temperature, but the breast still looked a little pink (since it was cooked down), and this being my first time, I was paranoid I would kill my family. Okay, maybe just get some nasty food poisoning, but that’s no good either. I looked up all sorts of facts about cooking poultry and why it might be pink. Anyway, I found if you pull the legs away from the body and they open easily, it should be done. (that’s what she said…sorry, couldn’t resist).
Anyway, those are my turkey making tips. Now to make turkey noodle soup using the carcass!