From Making Sure Your Turkey Actually Fits Into The Oven To Keeping It Moist — Here’s How To Avoid Messing Up Your First Adult Thanksgiving!
So you’re stuck in a pandemic without your parents or abuelos to make the turkey and the duties are falling on you. Just about everyone knows that the task of cooking the Thanksgiving turkey is a real job that no one takes on lightly. Whether you’re roasting it or deep frying it, there are legends of just how dangerous and intense prepping a turkey can be.
In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 2,000 Thanksgiving Day fires happen every year across the country. Even more so, the National Fire Protection Association has said that deep fryer fires cause an “average of 5 deaths, 60 injuries and more than $15 million in property damage each year.”
To help, we dug around for the best tips on Reddit!
Below check out some recipes on how to avoid a Thanksgiving turkey disaster!
“When I did my first turkey I followed Altons method. Featured here on youtube. It was the best bird I have had, so moist and flavourful. I now have everyone in my family do the same. Low and slow is no way to go with turkey, unless you are bbq´ing it. Brine it for flavour and moist meat. And NO STUFFING the bird, keep it seperate. Just watch the episode, I know it is kinda corny but it is good advice.”- RolandIce
“Get yourself a good probe thermometer. A model like this one works well, you leave it in the bird while it cooks and you can see what’s happening inside. It’s impossible to overcook it this way. Remember to rest it as the temperature will continue to rise even when you pull it out of the oven.” –Hillside_Strangler
“You start with eliminating the fear. People have been cooking large animals and eating them since the invention of fire and they didn’t even have Youtube. You’ll be fine…
- Thaw the bird. If that takes a few days, okay. If you have to put it in a sink full of warm water the morning of, that’s okay too. It’s meat, not Ebola.*
- Start early. Nobody’s going to obsess if the mashed potatoes are holding you up. Waiting on the bird is a drag. Don’t put it in the oven at 6am, but figure whatever temperature/time recommendations you’re getting should have an hour or so of slop on either side because they’re always wrong.
- Stage well. You’ve got vegetables, potatoes, god knows what else that needs to be ready, too. Mashed potatoes that sit out for an hour aren’t nearly as good as mashed potatoes made 5 minutes ago. A turkey that’s been in a warming oven for two hours? Tastes damn near exactly the same as one fresh off roast.
- Check it every half hour. If it gets too crispy in spots, tent those spots with tin foil. Juice should be basted (in my opinion – I also add white wine. Well, truthfully, I add mead that my wife makes, but you can’t have any). Stick a thermometer down into the meat between the drumstick and where the breast ceases to be a breast. Your oven is probably going to reveal that it doesn’t cook as evenly as it should because nobody bakes any more so most ovens made in the past 10 years are absolute shit. No worries, just rotate the pan 180 degrees in the oven every time you check it.
- If you don’t want the wingtips to turn into jerky you need to truss them up underneath. I’ll bet there’s a youtube video for that.
- Let it rest. This is your opportunity to get all the sweet, sweet karma from a beautiful bird. Or, you know, finish cooking everything else. Trust me, your “beautiful bird” is “just another turkey” to everyone else on the Internet so spare us the Instagram please.
- Carve out of sight. You can do a better job in the kitchen where things are clean, the lighting is good and you don’t have to reach over everyone. This is much easier than you think, too. You need a sharp knife, a fork of some kind, and a cutting board, preferably one with a juice groove. Cut down the breast bone on one side, then under it to free the breast. Poke a knife in the shoulder joint of the wing to get the wing off. Poke your knife in the hip joint and cut the meat to get the leg off. Now cut the thigh from the drumstick at the knee joint (easy) and put a wing, a thigh, and a drumstick on a serving platter. Now cut the breast against the grain into slices about half an inch thick and lay them out. Doesn’t that look beautiful? Doesn’t it dust the shit out of hacking at a carcass in front of your friends and neighbors? And hey – you’ve still got half a turkey.
Once your feast is done, strip the rest of the bird from the bone and put the meat in the fridge. Take the bones and put them in a stock pot with water and whatever spices your mother-in-law insist go in turkey stock (she’ll have an opinion). Let it just-barely-simmer overnight. House will smell awesome the next day and you can make this soup.” –kleinbl00
“I have entries broken down by the hour in my Google calendar to tell me when I need to be chopping stuff, when I need to be putting things in the oven, when people are arriving, what tasks I can hand off to anybody asking, “Is there anything I can do to help?”, etc. If you’ve got a game plan, everything will run a lot smoother. Some general tips for people that might have more time to prepare (these tips are applicable to OP as well, just might have to do test runs on a weeknight instead) – don’t try anything on Thanksgiving day that you haven’t given a shot prior to Thanksgiving day. Have you ever brined anything? Give brining a test run on a chicken this weekend if you have no experience but want to wow people for the holiday. Never tried making a pie crust from scratch? Definitely worth testing that in advance and/or freezing a second batch prior to the holiday shows up. I wouldn’t recommend doing anything new on that Thursday, because it will frazzle you if it doesn’t come out well when people arrive. My final recommendation is do as much possible prep work as possible prior to Thanksgiving day. Chop vegetables in advance, if you can. Line up spices and baking ingredients in an orderly fashion in your pantry or fridge. Mis en place is going to save your ass from wondering where the fuck you put the brown sugar. It also ensures that you have every ingredient necessary before you attempt cooking whatever you’re cooking.” –mattjeast
“Here is the best turkey recipe: Beginning at least 1 hour before dinner, add wine to your guests. Continue to add wine until dinner is over.” –paularbear
“Be sure to buy the bird 2-3 days ahead of time, EVEN IF THE BIRD IS A “FRESH” BIRD. You can bring home a bird that looks ready to go, but the inside is hard as a rock. They call it “hard-chilled,” I call it frozen. If you buy it a couple days before, you won’t get an icy surprise.” –paularbear
“When the bird hits 165, take it out and simply let it rest. Resting a turkey is vital to ensuring that the meat is moist and tender, instead of dry and stringy. I usually rest a turkey for 5 for about an hour, possibly more.” –Willravel
“I was totally in your shoes two Thanksgivings ago. I was holding a dinner for friends who couldn’t make it home for the holidays. We had about 20 odd people show up! I’d never made a turkey before either. A friend suggested that I stick my defrosted (important!!!), and lightly seasoned turkey into an oven bag. While it is baking, it keeps the moisture in, and cooks in its own juices (read: no obsessive basting!). Really easy and foolproof.” – vickasaurusrex
“As long as its not overcooked or dry, you can edit and recover. Make sure your bird can fit your oven, and time your prep to fit your kitchen. 10-15 is a huge amount of food, too much for a single day prep even for a seasoned home cook, get help. List out what can be done a day or 2 ahead. Have enough containers to store every nicely so there is no cross contamination. Have a back up plan.”- deadmantizwalking
“I have always just used a cooking bag, put the turkey breast side down so all the juices flow to the breast meat. I do stuff my bird, b/c I like how it tastes better. I also let it rest after taking it out of the oven before cutting into it, doing so helps the bird retain it’s juices. I don’t get that perfect skin but I don’t mind, b/c I don’t show it off at the table and nobody eats the skin.” –drawdelove
“If you do decide to stuff the bird remember to include the weight of the stuffing when you calculate the number of hours to cook the turkey. Also, when you order the bird or buy the bird make sure she is not frozen on the inside. I’ve had both these things happen to me and we didn’t eat until late haha.” –ladyloowho
“Also, don’t forget the sides! I had a subscription to CooksIllustrated for many years, and their website is great for that kinda stuff. All their recipes are good/great and often they have ‘pre-cook’ tips. For instance, you can make the sauce and other components for your green bean casserole a day or two before, which makes the day-of SO much easier. Timing is always the hardest part, so make yourself a time schedule for the day, working backward from your serving time. Don’t forget to ensure you have time for the turkey to rest. If you cover it in foil, it’ll stay warm/hot for over an hour, so take that into account.” –BloaterPaste
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