Divine Dinner Party

Thanksgiving Turkey Tips for
Cooking a Turkey to Perfection

When cooked right, turkey is heavenly. But without some good Thanksgiving turkey tips and recipes, getting it "right" can a lot more complicated than you might think.

Why? Because of the bird itself! Turkeys are flavorful and wonderful. But because they're so big, they tend to cook unevenly. Meaning that somebody who doesn't have a lot of experience or a few good tips on cooking a turkey may end up with that dry, hard texture of that all of us have seen before on Thanksgiving day.

If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, or if you've ever struggled with making that perfect Thanksgiving turkey, then this page will probably be pretty helpful. Here, I've assembled some great Thanksgiving turkey tips-- all of which should help you to end up with a moist and flavorful Thanksgiving turkey.

Planning: How Much Turkey per Person

Roasted Sliced Thanksgiving TurkeyBefore you ever get started roasting the perfect turkey, you'll need to, well, buy a turkey! Which requires a bit of planning. To be sure you have adequate meat for each guest, you'll need to plan about one pound of turkey per person invited to dinner. Remember, with all that bone and extra stuff, a pound of turkey doesn't equal a pound of meat-- so round up!

Planning to make a turkey breast and need to know how much turkey breast per person to buy? If it's a boneless breast, go for 1/2 pound of meat per person. And if you want leftovers, remember to plan accordingly!

5 Tips for Crispy Skin

A huge part of the presentation of the Thanksgiving turkey is the gleaming golden skin. Which, of course, tastes just as good as it looks.

Who doesn't fight over the crunchy bits? If you want crispy turkey skin, follow some of these key Thanksgiving turkey tips:

1. Keep it Dry. To get crisp turkey skin, you want the outside of your turkey as dry as possible before roasting. Leave the turkey unwrapped in the refrigerator the night before cooking to let it air out. Especially if you're using a turkey brine recipe!

2. Grease it Up. Generously oil or butter the turkey's skin and season prior to baking. Adding extra fat (some people even use bacon!) will help the skin to crisp.

3. Get it Hot. If you tent your turkey with foil at the beginning to keep it from over-browning, be sure to remove the foil toward the end of the baking cycle to brown the skin beautifully.

4. Cook in a shallow roasting pan. One of those little-known Thanksgiving turkey tips! The deeper the roasting pan, the more likely the bird will be "steamed" inside the pan instead of roasted and crunchy.

5. Use Alternative Methods. If you cook your turkey in a turkey smoker or in a turkey deep fryer, you'll get a beautifully browned, crunchy exterior every time. And you'll save room in the oven.

7 Tips for Cooking a Turkey Just Right

Perfectly Crisp Roast TUrkey with HerbsWonder how to have your turkey look and taste like you've got Martha Stewart chained up in your kitchen? Here are some great Thanksgiving turkey tips to get the perfect turkey every time:

1. Scent it from the inside. This is so easy! If you're not putting an herb stuffing into your turkey, consider some aromatic herbs and vegetables (onions, halved lemons, etc.) instead. This Thanksgiving turkey tip will help to cook your bird evenly and will also give extra flavor to the meat.

2. Use a brine. Brining or marinating your turkey can give it a wide variety of flavors and offer it more moisture, as well. Most professional chefs use some kind of turkey brine.

3. Try a salt brine. For people who are looking for simple Thanksgiving turkey tips with incredible results, I always direct them to this recipe for dry salt-brined turkey. It comes out delicious and crispy every time!

4. Season your butter. Most cooks rub the turkey with butter. But don't forget the seasoning, and be sure to use it in every nook and cranny of the bird. Take some softened butter and season it with your favorite herbs and spices. Slide this gently under the turkey skin to keep the breast moist and flavorful.

5. Time it right. Stuffed turkeys take on average an extra half-hour cooking time than those that are not stuffed. Check here for more Thanksgiving turkey tips about cook times.

6. No peeking. The less you open the oven door the better. Keeping a nice, sealed environment for your turkey will encourage even cooking. And when you do open the door make sure to baste, baste, baste!

7. Let it rest. Normally start hacking into the turkey right away? You're losing valuable juices. When your turkey reaches 165 degrees it's done. But don't start cutting it yet! Put the aluminum tent back in place and let your bird rest for 10-25 minutes before carving.

8. Choose a great recipe. There are so many wonderful turkey recipes online, in cookbooks, and right here at Divine Dinner Party that you have no excuse for cooking a flavorless turkey!

6 Safety Tips for Roasting Turkey

Thaw a Turkey Safely in the RefrigeratorAs Mom always said, "safety first." You want to have a successful holiday without any sickness or accidents. Here are some important Thanksgiving turkey tips for safety:

1. Defrost safely. While it might be common, if you're in a rush, to defrost a turkey in water over night, it's not the safest way to handle any poultry product. Instead, make some extra room in your refrigerator and let it slowly defrost there. You'll need about two days lead time for a 14-pound turkey.

For more information about how to thaw a turkey safely, click here.

2. Do not pre-stuff your bird. The longer the stuffing remains in the cavity before cooking the greater the chance of bacterial growth. Place your stuffing in there right before it goes in the oven, and don't pack the stuffing too tightly.

3. Keep fresh turkeys fresh. Fresh turkeys shouldn't be purchased any more than two days prior to cooking

4. Deep fry with care. If you're planning to deep fry your turkey make sure you have an adequate outdoor location, a large enough pan, and enough oil for the procedure. Deep frying a turkey is delicious but dangerous. Be sure you know all the safety precautions.

5. Keep your surfaces clean. Such a big bird can be ungainly. So be sure to thoroughly wash all items that come in contact with raw turkey

6. Refrigerate the leftovers. Move your leftover cooked turkey into a food storage container within two hours of dinner service. These will safe in the refrigerator for three-to-four days.

4 Turkey Tips for Easier After-Dinner Clean Up

When everyone's done eating, the last thing you want to do is spend hours in the kitchen, scrubbing the dishes and scrubbing away all the happy feelings the meal has left you with. Want to make your life a little easier? Here are some simple Thanksgiving turkey tips that will minimize your clean up time:

1. Turkey cooking bags. These special oven-safe turkey bags are an excellent option if you want fast, easy clean up and plenty of juices for gravy. Note, however, that you'll have to remove the bag about 45 minutes before the bird is done if you want any crisping action!

2. Go disposable. Use aluminum disposable pans for baking side dishes. No fuss, no muss!

3. Always wash as you go. This Thanksgiving turkey tip not only makes it easier to get everything cleaned up at the end of the day, it also makes it easier and more pleasant to be in the kitchen.

4. Get help! The person who cooked dinner should never be the only person doing dishes! Ask for help. Or demand it if you have to!

By following these Thanksgiving turkey tips you're sure to have a wonderful feast with friends and family that you'll remember for years to come.

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If it's a fat bird with a beard (no, I don't mean your Aunt Marjorie), we can help you cook it. Click on the icon above or click here to get started with recipes and tips on how to cook a turkey for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any time of year.


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After all, what better way to pass on your knowledge than to share it with other hosts and hostesses?

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