This post is the 4th of a five-part series on everything you need to know about turkey. Trying to figure out what kind of turkey to buy? Here’s what you need to know. Here are the two secret turkey tricks no one ever told you about. And, don’t forget to truss your turkey for even cooking using our handy-dandy video guide.
Ok, it’s Thanksgiving and you have a turkey that’s ready to go in the oven. You’ve chosen the right one, dry-brined it for 3 days, tied it up, and finally the moment has come. So, what now? Today, we’re going to talk about the 4 turkey cooking tips that you need to know to take your turkey from raw materials to a masterpiece.
#1 (The Most Important): Cooking Temperatures
The single most important factor when cooking a turkey is TEMPERATURE. Because the white meat (breast) and dark meat (thigh) are at their prime at different temperatures, it’s really important to monitor the temperature of turkey throughout cooking. Since everyone’s oven is different and since every person is going to have a different size and type of turkey, internal temps are the only thing we can rely to ensure that we have a delicious, juicy, perfectly-cooked bird.
The single most important factor when cooking a turkey is TEMPERATURE. Because the white meat (breast) and dark meat (thigh) are at their prime at different temperatures, it’s really important to monitor the temperature of turkey throughout cooking. Since everyone’s oven is different and since every person is going to have a different size and type of turkey, internal temps are the only thing we can rely to to ensure that we have a delicious, juicy, perfectly-cooked bird.
First, you need a good, accurate thermometer. An instant read like this one is ideal but if you don’t want to shell out the big bucks, even something like this will do (available most likely at your local grocery store and definitely at a kitchen supply store).
Then, make sure you’re checking the turkey in the right locations. For the dark meat (thigh), you want to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone (see the picture above.). For the white meat, push the thermometer about halfway down into the breast.
Next up: know your temperatures. Since dark meat is perfectly cooked at a higher temperature, you want to pay attention to it first. The thigh should reach a temperature of 165F and the breast should be at 155F – 160F. Remember, you need to let the turkey rest for 30 minutes once it comes out of the oven and during that time, the temperatures will rise 5-10 degrees.
Want to make this foolproof? Get yourself a fancy-schmancy (but not that expensive) probe thermometer, set the temperature to 165, insert it into the thigh, and walk away. It’ll beep when it’s ready.
#2: Cooking Times (Guidelines, Not Rules)
If you’re an obsessive clock watcher, turn away now because you’re not going to like what you hear. There’s no exact science on cooking times. Every oven has its own mood and burns at varying temperatures so, unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to timing that we can fully stand behind. But, we can get close.
Cook the turkey for 15 minutes for every 1lb of meat. But, start checking the temperatures 30-45 minutes before your calculated time just to be safe.
#3: Rack It Up
One of the keys to getting even cooking and browning is to make sure that the hot air in the oven is circulating around the entire turkey, including the bottom. If you put the turkey straight onto the bottom of a roasting pan, it may burn, causing uneven browning and unnecessary problems.
The solution: a roasting rack.
Sure, you can buy a professional roasting pan and rack, or you may have one in the back of a shelf that you inherited from your family but if you don’t have one already, don’t worry! There’s no need to shell out extra money for something you may only use once a year. You can make your own roasting rack. All you need to do is take a long piece of aluminum foil, scrunch it up, and form it into a figure 8 that’s big enough to sit fully under the turkey. Ta-da. A roasting rack for under $1. And yes, it’s as good as the real thing!
#4: Start It Upside Down
We’re probably going to hear some naysayers for this one, but this cooking technique is one that we’ve found to work like a charm. For some reason, the bottom of the turkey never seems to crisp up as well as the top, resulting in soggy skin. And nobody likes soggy skin. The solution: start it upside down. Well, at least for a little while. Roast the turkey upside-down (breast-side down) for 30 minutes in a 425F oven to start the rendering process. Then, remove it from the oven, turn the oven down to 325, flip the bird over, and continue roasting (breast-side up) until done.
Some of these techniques may seem a little outside of the box but we’re all about turkey perfection over here at NoshOnIt, while still being efficient and wallet-friendly of course. The ultimate goal of all of these tips is to create a roasting environment where the bird is set-up for success to roast evenly so we have a perfectly browned, crispy skinned, juicy turkey for our Thanksgiving table.