Those who know me best know that I feel most at home in the kitchen. That’s why when it comes time for the Super Bowl of food, everyone looks at me to bring the big meal together. Although no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without mashed potatoes, stuffing and pie, there is no denying that the turkey is the true star of the show. “The Bird” is not only the most traditional Thanksgiving dish, but also one of the most intimidating. How long do you cook it for? What temperature should the oven be at? To stuff or not to stuff? There are just so many factors to get right!
But don’t you worry, I got you! I am here to provide all of the most important info I have found over the years that has led me to the perfect turkey every time.
3-6 Days Before Thanksgiving
Ice, Ice, Baby: How to Thaw the Turkey
For those of us that start their turkey journey with a frozen bird, our first challenge comes long before Thanksgiving day – how do we take our frozen turkey and thaw it properly? Luckily, it’s not too difficult! Just place it in its original wrapping in the refrigerator. Yup, that’s it! Quite simple, right? Just make sure you start the process with enough time before Thanksgiving – about 24 hours for every 4 or 5 pounds of turkey. I would actually give it even a little more time because even after the turkey is completely thawed, it can remain in the fridge for 1 to 2 days before being cooked.
If you wake up on Thanksgiving and realize your turkey is still in the freezer (don’t worry, we’ve all done it), you can still thaw it safely with some simple TLC. To thaw your bird quickly, completely submerge it in cold water, making sure to change the water every 30 minutes until it is completely thawed.
The Day Before Thanksgiving
You Get What You Need: Making Sure You Have the Essentials
The day before Thanksgiving should be spent securing all of the things you will need to help you tackle the big day with style, ease and grace. I recommend following the checklist below:
- Roasting Pan Large Enough to Hold The Turkey
- Food Thermometer
- Salt and Pepper
- Chicken Broth
- Baking Dish
- Wine (Because what goes better with cooking than wine?)
The Big Question: To Stuff or Not to Stuff?
Although some people consider it the cardinal sin of Thanksgiving to not stuff your bird, I have found that it is easier for me to bake my stuffing in a separate casserole dish. This way, I can do all of the prep work the day before and not have to worry about it on Thanksgiving day. All I will have to do, day of, is stick it in the oven – it’s as simple as that!
To prepare the stuffing:
- Heat 1/4 cups of butter in a saucepan.
- Add some chopped celery and chopped onion. Let the veggies cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add 2.5 cups of chicken broth to the veggies and turn off the stove.
- Add the stuffing and watch the bread absorb all of the buttery goodness.
- Spoon the stuffing into a buttered (yes, more butter!) baking dish.
- Cover it with aluminum foil and let it sit in the fridge until it is time to bake!
But, Wait! What Do I Do if I Want to Stuff My Bird?
If you’re feeling extra nostalgic and want to stuff your turkey, make sure that you prepare the stuffing following steps above (1-4 only), immediately before you plan on sticking your turkey in the oven. Make sure you stuff your turkey loosely – this will help make sure everything is cooked through and safe to eat.
The Big Day!
The Big Time: Preparing and Cooking Your Turkey
- Finally! The main event has arrived! It is time to cook your turkey.
- First thing first, make sure you remove all of the insides of the bird (usually the neck, giblets and liver…things you really do not want) and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Next, dry your bird with paper towels and place it in the large roasting pan.
- Season the turkey with butter, salt and pepper (Make sure to get under the skin as well!). Seriously, the more butter, the better.
- Cover your turkey in aluminum foil.
- The time has come! Place your bird in the oven.
- Sit back and relax a little!
- About two hours later, use your food thermometer to check if the bird has reached 165 degrees! Place your thermometer in the thickest parts of the bird (usually the thigh and breast, and if applicable, the stuffing too) to check for doneness. Cook time should be around 2 hours for a 10 to 12 pound turkey. If your turkey is larger, I would add around 15 minutes of cook time per extra pound.
- When you find that your turkey is 165 degrees through and through take it out of the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes.
- Carve and enjoy!!
And that’s it! Everything you need to know to ensure you and your family enjoy the perfect turkey and that you make it through Thanksgiving Day alive and well. All that’s left for you to worry about is making sure someone else is on dish duty.