When it comes to Thanksgiving and cooking your turkey, there are many things to consider.
You have to decide on whether to purchase a fresh turkey or frozen. Everyone has a reason for each, and it's up to you to decide. Don't let others sway you with that decision. There's a case for each.
Cooking the Bird
You can roast it, which is the standard or traditional way of preparing a turkey. I believe almost all of us have had our turkey prepared this way since we can remember. I know that's the case for me, and I've never prepared it or had it any other way. Although here are some different ways to prepare your bird.
You can spatchcock it, so it cooks faster and gives you crispy skin all over. I've done chicken this way, but never a turkey, and I haven't figured out how to get the stuffing inside the bird when it's flattened like that. I've been considering ideas on how to make that happen, but so far, since we enjoy our turkey stuffed, which we'll be talking about soon, spatchcocking doesn't work, but it may for you for something different.
I remember when I first heard about this and saw ads on television for deep fryers for turkeys. At first, I thought it was a joke, but I found out quickly it wasn't and was extremely popular. I got to try a turkey done this way some years back, and I have to admit it was juicy and crispy. Almost too crisp, but it was good.
There's always smoking the bird also. If you're a fan of smoked turkey legs that you usually get at a fair, then you'll most likely like a completely smoked turkey. I've never had a complete smoked turkey, but maybe I'll get to try one day.
Stuffed or Not
Enough with the minor things when it comes to cooking. What we're here to talk about is the stuffing and what to do with it.
Since I was little, our turkeys have always been stuffed. I can't remember a Thanksgiving when a turkey wasn't stuffed, no matter who cooked it in our family.
I've always heard that stuffing can dry out a turkey, which is true, but I've never had a dried turkey using my family's recipe. It all comes down to preparation as usual.
Lately, most people keep the stuffing out of their turkeys due to salmonella concerns, which I can understand. It's a valid concern, especially with kids, and we are cautious since one of our granddaughters had salmonella from peanut butter one year.
The arguments are many, just like the arguments for Italians as to whether it's a Sunday sauce or gravy.
Stuffing a bird can separate families when it comes to sitting down for that Thanksgiving meal. I've seen arguments break out at the table of friends when the turkey is served in a way that others find disgusting.
While that word isn't necessarily the correct verbiage I'm looking for, I've heard people describe a stuffed turkey as that or worse.
For me, it's a natural process in cooking our Thanksgiving turkey. Making sure the internal temp of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees alieves the fears of salmonella for anyone at our table. Plus, I make more than enough stuffing for the bird and have some on the side for some of the family who won't eat the stuffing from the bird.
I don't think stuffing or not stuffing affects the bird's taste as much as it does for the flavor and aroma of the stuffing.
If you use herbs and spices in the bird's cavity instead of stuffing, that helps tremendously with the flavor of the turkey, and it does more for the bird than the stuffing.
Using butter under the skin of the bord on the breast and thighs, especially flavored butter like we use gives the bird flavor and juiciness that stuffing doesn't. Plus, the added butter helps with the turkey not drying out when the stuffing temperature gets to 165 degrees.
The argument for stuffed or not stuffed will most likely go on forever with no winner in the long run. It's a decision for each chef to make knowing who'll be sitting at their table.
Is it worth trying this year? Great question and one I can't answer for you. What I can say is that it's up to you and your family and whoever is coming for dinner.
I've thought about roasting our turkey without stuffing, but it seems unnatural to roast it without stuffing it. I know I can fill its cavity with some great herbs, spices, and other savory items, but what's the fun of that?
I love when we take the turkey out of the oven, all golden brown with juices flowing and the skin nice and crispy, and then remove the steaming stuffing from inside to pile on the plate to enjoy our meal.
Of course, I have the advantage of making more than enough stuffing to please the non-stuffed turkey lovers.
Herb Butter Recipe
This is the herb butter recipe I make for our turkey each year. This butter is spread under the skin of the breast and thighs before roasting, and I also applied this butter all over the outside of the bird.
These measurements are based on a 15-pound turkey.
2-3 pounds of softened butter
2-3 lemons depending on the size. 1st you want the zest of the lemons and then squeeze the juice of all into the butter mixture
1- a bunch of Italian parsley chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic minced
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, so the butter doesn't burn
That's it. Spread as I stated above, and I promise you'll have an incredibly juicy and tasty turkey this Thanksgiving.
Mark & Patti
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