If you’re reading this, it’s not too late! The fact that you’re seeking help two days before Thanksgiving is a sign that, well, you really need it— which is okay! Martha didn’t become an all-things-home-and-cooking expert without seeking advice from others, and we don’t expect you to either! So, if you’re coming down to the wire, here are some helpful tips from our kitchen to yours!
- How To Select the Right Size Bird: Although a turkey is rather large, a lot of what you see is bone. When selecting a size, figure 1 – 1 ½ pounds of turkey per guest. Also account for leftovers and whether or not you or your guests may want them. Plan ahead, but if that bird is frozen when you buy it, your main mission in the next day is to defrost it immediately!
- Speaking of defrosting, most turkeys you’ll find in-store are frozen. It’s recommended to defrost your turkey in your refrigerator, as it’s too cold to permit bacteria from growing. And, if you have the time to have it defrost in there— it’s best to place the turkey on the bottom shelf, on a rimmed sheet pan in case it drips. The rule of thumb is a day for every four pounds of turkey. You most likely don’t have 3-4 days to let your turkey defrost that way. So, if you have a day, place your turkey in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. Submerge your frozen bird under cold water (not warm or hot, this will promote bacteria growth) and just wait, it’ll happen eventually.
- Clean your turkey! We have heard horror stories of people cooking their turkey with the giblets inside! Yes, there’s a package of giblets inside your turkey’s cavity that must be removed before cooking. Also, rinse off your turkey under cool running water and pat dry.
- Now, for the pan… select a heavy, sturdy stainless steel pan to cook your turkey. Why? These types of pans will last you a lifetime, plus it evenly distributes the heat, and will be able to handle the weight of your bird. You’ll want to look for a pan that will just fit the size of your turkey, with sides that come up about 3 inches, just to catch any juices that might be flowing during the cooking process. We also recommend looking for a pan that comes with racks (you’ll need these regardless) and one with handles, you’ll need all the help you can get with lifting it once it’s done!
- Let it roast! There are no hacks or shortcuts to this one. You’ll want to always roast your turkey on a rack set so that the juices can drip down, and not interfere with the bottom of your bird (the last thing you’ll want is a soggy bottom). Those drippings are going to be very beneficial throughout the cooking process. In fact, after the first hour of roasting, you’re going to take those drippings and baste your turkey with them to keep the meat moist and to make sure your turkey’s skin has an even color (plus, these juices will also be used if you’re making homemade gravy.) You will want to roast your turkey until your instant-read thermometer (that will be inserted into the thickest part of your turkey’s thigh) reads 165 degrees. At which point, you will remove your turkey from the oven and cover it loosely with aluminum foil, for about 30 minutes. DO NOT CUT your turkey until it has time to rest (a minimum of 30 minutes).
- Enjoy, pour yourself a drink— you just roasted your turkey and prepared a Thanksgiving staple a couple days before the big day and you deserve it!