6 Tips for Cooking the Perfect Bird
For many people, the fourth Thursday in November is the best holiday of the year, and it all centers around a perfectly golden, juicy, flavorful turkey. From picking the right bird to carving it to perfection, Food Lion has you covered with this guide to all the dos and don’ts for cooking that delicious turkey that all your friends and family will be dreaming of next year.
- Choose the Right Bird: There’s nothing wrong with getting a frozen turkey. In fact, they’re frozen right after butchering, giving you basically the same quality as a fresh bird. Fresh or frozen, pick a healthy-looking bird that meets the size you need – plan on between 1 and 1.5 pounds for everyone sharing the meal. If you’re looking for something a little more flavorful, consider a heritage breed. These old-fashioned turkey breeds usually have longer legs and richer flavor according to The Food Network.
- Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Thaw: Don’t find yourself scrambling to thaw your bird on the big day. Allow a minimum of 24 hours thaw time in the refrigerator for every five pounds of turkey. If you’re running short on time, place the bird in a bath of cold water for six to 10 hours, depending on the size. Change the water every half hour and cook the bird immediately after patting it dry and seasoning it.
- Season that Bird Liberally: Infuse your turkey with tons of flavor to keep everyone around your Thanksgiving table raving about the star of the show. Whether you brine it for days, dry brine or rub it with butter before seasoning liberally, the seasonings are key to taking your turkey over the top. Don’t forget to dry the bird inside and out with paper towels for crisp skin and add a rack to the roasting pan for even roasting.
- Skip Cooking the Stuffing Inside the Bird: Keep your stuffing on the side and fill the cavity with flavor bombs instead. A few examples include citrus fruits, which add flavor and moisture for extra juiciness. Herbs like rosemary and thyme infuse the meat with flavor from the inside, while aromatics like onions and garlic round out the flavor profile to perfection.
- Step Away from the Baster: You think you’re keeping your bird juicy and tender, but when you baste, you’re really just letting heat out of the oven and causing drying temperature fluctuations. Instead, The Kitchn recommends keeping the oven at a steady 350 degrees Fahrenheit for around 13 minutes per pound. The cooking gods at Buzzfeed prefer starting the bird at 475 F for 30 minutes and turning the heat down to 350 F for the rest of the cooking time. Whatever method you choose, make sure you use a good meet thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh. To roast the bird to perfection, pull it out at 165 F and allow 20 minutes for it to rest before you start carving.
- Make Amazing Gravy with Pan Drippings: Too many cooks toss the drippings. But not you. You know that pan drippings are the key to making amazing gravy. Start by placing them over medium-high heat and stirring in 1 cup of broth. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the crispy bits. Transfer the mixture to a measuring cup and pop it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Scrape the fat off and put 1 cup into a saucepan. Whisk in flour to form a paste and cook for a few minutes before pouring the pan drippings in. Add broth as needed to achieve the perfect silky consistency.