6 Turkey Tips to Get You Through the Holiday Season
It’s your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner, and although your guests are bringing the sides, you still have the traditional turkey on your plate. To help you tackle the task, we asked Winery Chef Dominic Orsini to share his top turkey-cooking tips—things to keep in mind no matter what recipe you use.
- Double-check your bird. Even though your turkey exterior feels thawed, check that it isn’t still frozen on the inside, too. A good time to do this is when you remove the giblet bag, Chef says. “If your turkey is still frozen, fill the cavity with cold water.” The water-filled turkey can sit for up to one hour, but Chef recommends changing the water every 15 minutes.
- No one likes an uneven tan. After brining your turkey (see our popular Citrus-Lacquered Turkey, if you need a recipe), arrange it breast-side up. Chef recommends using a rack set in a roasting pan, if you have one. Tuck the wing tips behind the turkey’s back and loosely tie the drumsticks together with kitchen string to close the cavity. “This allows for a more-even browning behind the wing.” (In other words, your turkey won’t have that unsavory patch of white skin.)
- Goodbye, soft turkey skin. Crispy turkey skin is the name of the game, and you want to achieve it without drying out the meat. “Place the bird in the refrigerator, uncovered, and let it air dry overnight,” Chef says. Drying out the skin is a key step to crispy skin sans dry meat.
Nothing goes to waste. You might have bought the turkey mostly for its meat, but don’t toss the giblet bag straight into the trash. “The turkey liver can be made into pâté,” Chef says. If that’s not your thing, use the giblets to make a broth for your gravy.
- Stop before 180 degrees. “Cooking your bird to 180 degrees is the worst thing you could do,” Chef says. “You need to account for the 5-10 degrees that carry over after you remove the bird from the oven.” Instead, remove your bird when it’s at 165 degrees (and let it sit for 30 minutes). This will prevent it from drying out.
- Lots of rest. Cooking a holiday feast takes a lot of energy—from both you and the turkey. So just like a perfect piece of steak, “let the turkey rest before cutting into it.” Chef recommends 30 minutes. This allows the meat to relax and absorb the juices that would otherwise fall out.
For simple ways to wow your holiday guests, check out our holiday entertaining tips.
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