Thanksgiving turkey tips and clues
Americans consume 5 billion pounds of turkey each year. On average, Americans eat 16 pounds of turkey yearly.
The majority of this turkey is consumed over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Most people buy frozen turkeys. Too many fail to properly thaw the birds. This leads to undercooked turkey, overcooked dry breasts, or in cases of extreme forgetfulness, pizza or Chinese food for holiday dinner.
If you thaw the bird in the fridge, allow 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. For larger birds, over 14 pounds, allow an extra half day. If you use the running water method, allow 20 minutes per pound, more for larger birds.
Do not forget to remove the giblet package or gravy bag before roasting your turkey.
There are many ways to roast a whole turkey. Some are fancy, involved, and complicated. Others are as simple as just seasoning with salt, pepper, and roasting the bird.
There are a few tips and clues to make serving turkey easier.
Dry your turkey. Pat the skin dry. Place it uncovered in the fridge overnight. This will ensure a nice brown bird.
Cut off the ends of the drumsticks. The skin and meat will shrink back during roasting, exposing the tendons. After cooking, the tendons can be removed with needle nose pliers or kitchen tweezers.
Slit the area into the legs where they meet the body. This will ensure the thighs cook through.
If you want, slather the skin of the bird with butter, herb butter, or oil for better browning.
Place rough chopped carrots, onion, celery, herbs, maybe some citrus, the neck, and giblets in the bottom of the roasting pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Add just enough water or stock, and white wine to barely cover. This is the base for a simple gravy.
Place the bird on top and roast.
Let the bird rest for at least one hour. Some chefs claim resting the bird for as long as it cooked makes it tastier. Do not worry about serving a room temperature turkey. You will have hot gravy over it.
While the bird is resting, remove the solids from the roasting pan with a slotted spoon. Discard the citrus if you used it. Pour off the liquid into a bowl. Let it sit until the fat rises to the top. Remove the fat.
Shred the meat from the neck and chop the giblets.
In a sauce pan, place some oil over high heat and add the vegetables, neck meat, and giblets. Saute over high heat. Add the liquid from the pan and some chicken or turkey stock (if your store carries it). You can add port or sherry for more flavor. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain the gravy through a fine sieve or cheesecloth-lined strainer, using a ladle to press all the liquid out of the solids.
Place in a serving container.
Remove the wishbone before carving. This makes carving or removing the breast easier. Be careful. Wishbones may be broken during the mechanical plucking process. You do not want to pierce fingers or hands with one. It will be painful for a few days.
Whatever way you cook and serve your turkey, remember it is Thanksgiving Day, not Turkey Day. The day is not about the turkey. It is about giving thanks, the attitude of gratitude.
By the way, if you are stuffing your turkey, here is an instructional video: