The Church Mothers’ Ultimate Guide to Cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is a time when families and friends get together to show gratitude for the love, the bonds, and the memories they have with each other. It’s one of those occasions in a year that most people look forward to because you’re taking time away from your job, your business, and just spend time with the people that matter most in your life.

However, if you’re the host, the experience can be entirely different for you. The anticipation can be filled with dread and anxiety. If you’re a seasoned host or cook, then preparing a hearty and delicious Thanksgiving dinner is easy peasy. But what if it’s your first time to cook for your family or your friends? What if you’ve never roasted a turkey before? Or never baked one by yourself? Or maybe you’re looking for an easier way to cook a turkey this year?

Whether it’s your first time to cook your own turkey or you want an easier way to make a juicy and tasty centerpiece for Thanksgiving, this no-fuss and simple turkey recipe will boost your confidence in the kitchen. And of course, you’ll also find a few tips and tricks along the way.

So lo and behold, it’s time we begin the ultimate guide to cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey, the easy and simple way.

Plate with tasty whole roasted turkey on table against defocused lights

What You Need to Know Before Cooking Your Turkey

What Turkey Size Should I Buy?

There are many different sizes of turkey one can find in a supermarket. The answer to determining the size of the turkey you should have as your centerpiece for your dinner depends on the number of people you invite. The rule is one person to 1.5lbs. of turkey, so if you have 6 people at the dining table come Thanksgiving night, then the most ideal size for the turkey you should buy is a 10-pound turkey.

When Should I Buy Frozen Turkey?

It will take you at least a day or two to thaw your turkey from the freezer, so the lastest day that you should buy your turkey is 2 to 3 days before Thanksgiving. But of course, you would need to buy one earlier so you can choose the best turkey that you can buy. When you decide to purchase a day before Thanksgiving, you’ll be left with the turkeys no one else wanted to buy at the supermarket. Or worse, you won’t be able to buy any ’cause they’re all sold out.

The best time to buy your turkey would be, the most, 5 days from Thanksgiving. they’re still fresh, and you can have early dibs on the best-looking turkeys and many options for size and brand.

How Do I Thaw Frozen Turkey?

Place the turkey from the freezer to the fridge two days before Thanksgiving. If you have a 10-pound turkey, 48 hours of thawing in the fridge is ideal; while 24 hours is ideal for a 5-pound turkey. Bigger size turkeys will take longer to thaw, with some requiring to be thawed up to 5 days in the fridge.

When you place it in the fridge, make sure to set it on a cookie sheet or pan so the liquid the turkey makes will drip on the pan instead of in your fridge.

Do I Wash Raw Turkey?

It is not advisable to wash your turkey because bacteria exists on raw poultry. When you wash it on the sink, bacteria will get into your sink and countertops, causing the bacteria to proliferate. Once your turkey has been thawed, you can place it on a pan and air dry the meat. You can also wipe it with a paper towel. The bacteria on the raw poultry will be killed once it is roasted, so you don’t need to worry.

I Don’t Have a Roasting Pan, Should I Buy One?

If you don’t have a roasting pan, you don’t have to buy one just for Thanksgiving. You can use a casserole that’s big enough for the bird to fit into. Place some sliced potatoes and other vegetables on the casserole and put the turkey on top. This will act as a wire rack by slightly elevating the turkey.

Do I Need to Brine or Baste the Turkey?

Brining and basting are two of the most traditional ways to prepare turkey for roasting on Thanksgiving. But these can be time-consuming and we’re looking for a simple and fast way to roast turkey, right? We don’t want to start preparing a couple of days before the actual Thanksgiving. We want an easy, simple, and quick way to cook the turkey without these lengthy traditional means of preparation.

If you want a juicy and flavorful turkey, you actually don’t need brining or basting. Brining is the process of soaking the turkey in a salty bath a few days to a week before roasting. It is said to make the turkey moist and flavorful. But, if you only buy your turkey 2 to 5 days before Thanksgiving day, you won’t have time to brine it, and there are also other simple ways that you can do to add flavor to your turkey.

Basting, on the other hand, is the process of constantly brushing the turkey with juice as it is being roasted. However, the process would require you to frequently open the oven door as you baste the juice on the chicken, which will make your baking time longer, and lowers the heat of the oven. It has also been observed that basting only covers the skin of the turkey, and does not necessarily get absorbed in the meat, so it defeats the purpose of making the turkey juicy and moist.

So for his recipe, we won’t be doing both methods.

What to Prepare

Now that you know what size of turkey to buy and how to prepare it, it’s time we discuss the ingredients and materials you need to prepare to cook the turkey. This recipe is ideal for medium size or a 10-pound turkey.

Materials:
– Oven
– Roasting Pan or Casserole Dish
– Foil
– Instant-Read Thermometer

Ingredients:

  • Turkey
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 apple
  • 2 tbsp thyme
  • 2 tbsp rosemary
  • 2 tbsp sage
  • 1 large onion
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)

For the Herb Butter
– 1 cup softened unsalted butter
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp ground pepper
– 6-8 cloves of minced garlic
– freshly chopped herbs

Instructions:

1. Once the turkey has properly thawed, remove the packaging and pat dry with paper towels. Remove the neck and the bag of giblets from the turkey. You can either throw them out or set aside when you make your gravy. Mixing them in your gravy recipe will make it more flavorful.

2. Season the cavity of your turkey with salt and pepper. Rub the entire turkey with salt and pepper. Place the quartered lemon, the quartered apple, onion, and herbs inside the cavity.

3. Tuck the wings of the turkey under its body, and tie the legs with twine. Keeping the wings and legs underneath the turkey will help to make it flatter on the pan, avoid uneven parts, and also prevents these parts of the poultry from burning.

4. Brush the entire turkey with the herb butter.

5. Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. Once the stuffing is inside and the oven is now at the desired temperature, it’s time you place the turkey in the oven.

7. Check the turkey halfway through the cooking time to make sure it’s roasting properly.

8. Approximate cooking time for a 10-pound turkey to cook is around 2.5 hours. To check if your turkey is perfectly cooked, you would need to use an instant-read thermometer. Stick the thermometer on the thigh of the turkey and it should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit to determine that it’s perfectly cooked.

If it’s not yet at 165 degrees Fahrenheit and 2.5 hours of baking in the oven is over, cover the pan with foil without touching the turkey and continue baking until it reaches the desired temperature, Covering the turkey in foil will prevent it from burning or being overcooked as you continue to roast it in the oven.

9. Once you take it out of the oven, you would want to set it aside before serving. Let it rest from 15 to 40 minutes. Cover it with foil and create a tent. Do not press the foil firmly on the turkey because it will make the skin moist and soft. Make sure the foil does not touch the skin of the turkey to maintain the crispiness of the skin. A tight foil will trap the turkey’s steam, and you’ll end up with a moist and soft skin that’s unappealing once you remove it.

And voila, your juicy and tasty turkey is now ready to serve.

Here are a Few Tips Before You Get Started

  • Cook the Stuffing Separately

If you must use stuffing, such as breadcrumbs, potatoes, eggs, and other ingredients that need to be cooked, do not place them inside the turkey raw. This is because the stuffing will need more time to cook than the turkey meat and you’ll end up with an overcooked turkey that’s dry. You can prepare the stuffing separately before you place it inside the turkey’s cavity. Cook the potatoes and herbs together before you place them in the meat. It can also prevent the risk of salmonella if you choose to add eggs to the stuffing.

  • Approximate Cooking Time

9-11 lbs. trurkey = 2.5 hours
12-14 lbs. turkey = 3 hours
15-17 lbs. turkey = 3.5 hours
18-20 lbs. turkey = 4 hours
21-23 lbs. turkey = 4.5 hours
24+ lbs. turkey = 5 + hours

Knowing the approximate cooking time of your turkey will help you cook a juicy roasted turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. The key to a tasty, flavorful, and moist turkey is never to overcook it. Overcooking leads to a dry turkey and that’s the number one thing you want to avoid.

Tips for a Great Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

While the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey, it’s not the only dish you’ll need to prepare. Whether you have a set-menu ready or you’ve got generational traditions to follow, here are some tips to making a great Thanksgiving dinner menu:

Consider Variety

Your guests may have different tastes and preferences so make sure you have a wide variety of dishes on the table. Check if there are vegans or pescatarians among your guests, or if they have any allergies, or if they’re on a special diet. They may not expect too much by coming to a Thanksgiving dinner but making sure they eat well and have a great time will make them feel included in your dinner.

Avoid Repeating Ingredients

If you’re preparing pecan pie for dessert, do not serve spiced pecans as appetizers. Since you already have the turkey as your centerpiece, do not service other dishes with turkey. When your pecan pie rolls in once everyone is stuffed, it won’t be as appealing anymore because they’ve already had a taste of pecan before the dinner started.

Create a Rainbow of Colors

If you’re unsure what to prepare, think about adding colors to your table. Thanksgiving dinners are predominantly white – mashed potatoes, creamed onions; and brown – turkey, gravy, pecan pie. Add color to your menu by serving green salads, pumpkin pie, or cranberry juice for its red color.

A Surprise Flavor

Thanksgiving dinners can be redundant – each year the same kinds of food are being served. Add a touch of surprise to this year’s dinner with a new dish or flavor. You can prepare a Mediterranean dish to the menu, or something Indian or Middle Eastern. By serving a surprise flavor, you’re adding a unique touch to an otherwise traditional and classic celebration.

If you have too much on your hands, it won’t hurt to ask for help. Instead of baking a few pies or dessert last minute, why not ask your guests to bring their fair shares of food – such as desserts or side dishes or appetizers. This will help to lighten your load, so you can focus more on that juicy and mouth-watering turkey that’s the centerpiece of the celebration.

If cooking your own turkey this Thanksgiving is filling you with dread, you don’t have to go the traditional route by doing brining, basting, flipping the turkey, and all the other weird yet effective ways of cooking a truly delicious turkey.

With these simple cooking tips and tricks, that much-coveted juicy turkey that everyone looks forward to every Thanksgiving is now easy breezy to do with these quick and simple methods.

Now all you need to worry about is having a great time with family and friends.

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