How to Train a Terrifying Turkey

Turkey can be quite an intimidating prospect for the holidays, especially for the hosts of the family banquets.

Will it be too dry? Uncooked? How do I season the whole thing? Do I thaw it on the counter or in the fridge? Or buy fresh? How big of a bird do I need? Do I stuff it? Will great-grandma who baked the turkey until this past year because she lost her eyesight approve???

I always looked at the whole idea of baking turkey as intimidating myself, though for a bit of a different reason…

How long to I bake the thing? Is my thermometer accurate enough to get the center? Is my oven big enough? How much turkey can I live with as leftovers before I ban turkey from the menu???

Yeah… I can’t answer every question (my post can only be so long before people go into lala-land), but I can simplify the process with some solid time-tested advice.

How to Train Your Turkey (In 5 Easy Steps)

  1. Save yourself the pain and buy the turkey fresh or pre-thawed. If you can’t for some reason, please, PLEASE, plan ahead and thaw the thing in the refrigerator. It can take a week to thaw a large turkey in the fridge. As an RD who is ServSafe Certified, thawing on the counter is the BEST WAY TO PROMOTE BACTERIA GROWTH. The belly bug is not what you want to serve for the holidays.
  2. You only need 1 pound (~0.5kg) of bird per person. This already accounts for bones. Buying that 20 pound monstrosity may look impressive and festive on the table, but if your only cooking for 4-6 people, then 10-12 pounds is just fine with food to spare.
  3. Wash the turkey please! Well!! And don’t be afraid to go elbow deep in the sucker to scrub the blood and grey-colored residue from the thing. It takes 5 minutes at most with a reasonable sized sink and will remove most of the bacteria, fat, and blood from the bird that just plain isn’t palatable.
  4. Don’t stuff the bird with stuffing. It may seem lackluster to serve stuffing in a pan, but the chances of under-cooking the turkey is astronomical. Most conventional ovens use convection heat, a.k.a. the heat source heats the dry air which in turn heats the food. Dense food items, such as stuffed turkeys, will need extra time for the center to heat to the proper 350 degree F temperature, IF it even reaches that point AT ALL. Again, the belly bug is not the main course, family memories are.
  5. Be economical with your turkey organs. You know that package of organs that makes you turn green and your grandma swoon? Take that and boil it in a large pot of water. Then when you pull out the turkey and use the drippings for gravy you have turkey broth to bolster it up and thicken instead of flavorless water.

Whelp, now that I’ve ranted a bit, here’s my mom’s wonderful recipe (yes, yes I have permissions to post it).

Mom’s Holiday Bird

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash turkey of all blood and grey brown fat.
  3. Place gizzard, heart, neck, and liver into large pot filled with water.
  4. Boil to use with gravy.
  5. Using ~1 cup of olive oil, massage the turkey.
  6. Dust the bird with Adobo.
  7. Bake 20 mins per pound in a roasting pan with the lid on and vent fully open.
    -half way through the time take off lid
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