If you're one of those people who only eats turkey once a year, you're missing out. Turkey's a year-round meal at our house, and we like to stock up on birds when they're on sale over the holidays. That's one reason why we have a freezer, you know? In fact, one of the stranger traditions around our house is cooking a turkey on the 4th of July. Well, Ben Franklin wanted to make the turkey our national bird - what better way to celebrate with old Ben?
Here's what you need to do up a bird right...
Give the Bird the Brush Off
Dunno 'bout you, but my recipe for a golden-brown bird calls for me to brush it (top and bottom, inside and out) with herb-infused butter. No, I will not tell you the secret ingredient. Anyway, I use this handy Zyliss Silicon Brush to do the deed. It's a lot easier to clean than a bristle brush 'cause you can disassemble it and stick it in the dishwasher, and it will probably last a lifetime. You can get 'em in several sizes and a variety of colors (I say who cares, but some people are funny that way).
Lace it Up
Now I happen to detest stuffing. Not only is it nasty and filled with unnatural chemicals and salt (especially the stuffing that comes out of a box); but it also soaks up the moisture of the baking bird, leaving it dry and dusty. If you want stuffing, make it from scratch and cook it in a separate baking dish. If you insist on stuffing the bird's "body cavity," pack it loosely and then sew up the poor turkey's hind end with one of these Norpro Turkey Lacers. You can use 'em on roasting hens or for other kitchen tasks, too - not just turkeys.
Is it Done Yet? Is it Done Yet?
ome brands of turkeys come with little pop-up timers installed already. They're handy for giving you an approximation of whether the bird is done, though I wouldn't necessarily depend on them to be accurate. If your bird doesn't have a pop-up, you can install your own timer for just a dollar or two. These Admetior Turkey Timers will do the trick nicely, but the little device is sold under a lot of names (including Ekco and Everyday Living).
Something to Cook In
Now you need something to cook it in. Sure, you can use one of those disposable aluminum things that pop up around the holidays, but wouldn't you rather have something more durable (and better)? Like this really, really cool KitchenAid Roaster, the kind with a Removable Rack? That's what I use: both the roaster and the rack are non-stick, for easy cleaning. The heavy-duty metal rack sits on knobs where the handles attach, and holds the bird (or big ol' roast or ham...) up off the bottom of the pan for even cooking.
We picked this one because the handles stick almost straight up, making a package about eighteen inches square - we needed that because the idiots who build our house cheaped out and got a 27-inch oven, and bigger pans don't fit inside. We've cooked 20-pound birds in it, no problems - KitchenAid says it's big enough for a 24-pounder. Whatever the case, it's sturdy enough to hold the juices as you transfer the pan to the counter or stove top, unlike those aluminum pans.
Turkey Juice? or Brake Fluid?
While it's cooking, you'd better baste it with pan juices to keep the bird nice and moist. Before the juices get deep, you can use that pastry brush (it can withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees, so it's safe to stick in the hot pan). Once you get a nice pool of juices going, switch to a bulb-type baster.
Make sure you get one whose bulb holds on tight - I have one with a smooth tube, that the bulb just slides off of. Grrr. I exiled it to the garage, where it occasionally gets used to suction fluids out of the brake and power-steering reservoirs on the cars. Ha.: so there!
How Hot Will it Get?
There are two kinds of meat thermometers: the kind that you stick in the turkey and leave there while it bakes, and the kind that you leave on the counter and poke into the bird at intervals. I have one of the combination fork-thermometers, a digital model - it works just fine. Pick the kind you're comfortable with...
Pick it Up? But It's HOT
Once the turkey is done cooking (including that ten-minute resting period), it's time to take it out of the pan and/or rack, and move it to the platter where it will be displayed in all its glory. For about three minutes. You could use a couple of forks, but why chance it with a bird that weighs as much as a two-year-old? Get a pair of turkey lifters like these All-Clad Turkey Lifters, broad forks with sturdy handles.
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