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How to Cook the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Baked chicken for Thanksgiving Day. Roasted whole chicken or turkey with autumnal vegetables

Thanksgiving is coming quickly and when all your friends and family sit around the table to enjoy the feast, they may pass around the mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole and more, but the real star of the show is the turkey. Even if your side dishes and desserts are Michelin star worthy, dry, overcooked turkey will be the talk of the family for years. Here are a few easy tips on how to achieve the perfect turkey this Thanksgiving so you can wow your friends and family:

Christmas easy carve turkey breast
Christmas easy carve turkey breast

Give your bird time to thaw

Cooking Thanksgiving turkey
Cooking Thanksgiving turkey

 You may have seen news stories, articles, and even videos about how to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey at the last minute when you forgot. And this year, it’s time to set an alarm and remind yourself ahead of time. Allowing your bird to come to room temperature for at least an hour before you cook it to raise its internal temperature is crucial. This can allow the bird to cook more evenly from the skin to the bone, and make for a delicious, juicy, flavorful turkey.

Give your turkey a few days to thaw depending on the size of the bird, and on the day of, set a reminder for yourself to let it have time to get to room temperature before it goes in the oven. Too long outside of the fridge and you can enter a dangerous breeding ground for bacteria but giving it an hour at room temperature can create an even more delightful eating experience.

Don’t forget to truss

Trussing a turkey might seem like a complicated art using butchers’ twine, but it’s a necessary step to keep the juices from leaving the bird. Products such as the Turbo Trusser can be used as a replacement for butchers’ twine, and help you truss a bird in under 60 seconds. Trussing also helps with the cooking process so every part of the bird cooks evenly, and the results are more than delicious.

Turbo Trusser is made of a durable stainless steel (in the USA) and can be used in anything from an oven to a grill, or even a smoker, roaster, rotisserie, and deep fryer.

Start hot, and end cooler

Cooked turkey for Thanksgiving dinner
Cooked turkey for Thanksgiving dinner

For perfectly crispy, browned skin, start the bird in a hot oven (425-475 degrees) for at least 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees for the rest of the cooking time. This cooking process will create a crispy golden outside while keeping the meat inside tender and allow it to retain more of its moisture so gravy on your turkey is an add-on, not necessary to get it down. Starting your temperature higher and ending lower is a big part of the roasting process.

For a 12-14 lb bird the cooking time should be around 2 – 2 ½ hours long but it’s important to keep a constant eye on the internal temperature – which can be done with one simple tool.

Invest in a thermometer

Checking the temperature of the turkey. It's not cooked enough yet, only 160
Checking the temperature of the turkey. It’s not cooked enough yet, only 160

 Cooking the turkey to the recommended temperature (165 degrees) is important for food safety, but also ensuring the turkey isn’t overcooked. It’s a good idea to invest in a digital thermometer to get the job done. A thermometer that has a that can stay inside the turkey while cooking so you can monitor it digitally with a device while it cooks can allow you to get other food done and prevent the ultimate turkey cooking sin – peeking.

Opening the oven door, putting a meat thermometer inside, allowing the temperature to be read and closing the door is not only time consuming but also messes up the cook time of the turkey. When you release all of the heat you can cause the bird to cook slower or unevenly because the oven will have to reheat and compensate for the cooler air you let in. Purchasing a digital thermometer with a probe can give you peace of mind that your turkey isn’t overcooking and keep you from making the mistake of peeking.

 Let the turkey rest

No, this doesn’t mean to give the turkey a blanket and a pillow! Plan on taking the turkey out of the oven at least 30 minutes to 2 hours before the meal is set to begin. Resting the turkey ensures juiciness. So, while your guests might smell the delicious meal – make sure they don’t try to sneak a piece too soon! It’s not imperative that the turkey be served piping hot – most turkey is more important than hot turkey. During this process, the turkey is given time to reabsorb they juices – otherwise if you cut the turkey too soon they’ll dribble out and you’ll lose the opportunity to keep your turkey moist.

By Brian Halasinski and Kirk Hyust, co-owners of  Turbo Trusser

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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