Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be complete without the holiday turkey so here are a few facts for you about a turkey and instructions on how to carve one.
How much turkey is considered a serving? As a rule, allow 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person. For fifteen people, you would need a 22 1/2-pound turkey. And if you are like me, you want lots of leftovers, so I usually get a larger size turkey than needed.
Should you buy a fresh or frozen turkey? The turkeys that are readily available in supermarkets today are frozen and very affordable. This is what most people purchase. But if your budget allows, try a fresh turkey. Some supermarkets and specialty stores sell them and they are corn-fed and sometimes organic, making them more expensive. There is a difference in taste. You will be pleasantly surprised. The meat on the fresh turkey tastes, somehow, meatier. It’s texture is chewier and less mushy than that of frozen birds.
Defrosting your turkey is very important. If you do decide to go with a frozen turkey you want to defrost it in a way to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Always defrost the turkey in its unopened wrapper and set in a roasting pan or rimmed baking pan to catch any juices. Make sure your refrigerator is at a temperature of 40 degrees or less. Allow about 5 hours of refrigerated defrosting time for every pound. If you want to speed up the defrosting process, immerse the still-wrapped turkey breast-side down in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per pound to thaw.
What is that bag of “stuff”? Once the turkey has defrosted, remove the bag from the cavity. This bag contains the giblets, which can be used to make your delicious gravy (discard the liver). Also remove the neck from the front of the turkey. You can use it also for flavoring your broth before making the gravy.
Should I stuff the bird or cook the dressing separately? For safety’s sake, don’t stuff the turkey because the dressing may not reach a temperature hot enough to kill possible bacteria. Bake the dressing separately in a casserole dish for 35 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees. If you want to stuff the turkey for presentation purposes, use two smaller baking dishes for your dressing. Serve one alongside the turkey and use the other to stuff the bird (after it has cooked) and before bringing it to the table.
- After roasting, let your turkey rest for 20 minutes so that the juices can redistribute themselves.
- Have a serving platter nearby. Use a meat-slicing knife with a long, flexible, and sturdy blade. I like using an electric knife.
- Remove the leg and wing by cutting through the skin between the drumstick and breast to find the thigh joint. Cut down through the joint to remove the thigh and drumstick.
- Cut through the joint between the thigh and drumstick. Slice the leg and thigh meat by holding them upright and slicing down along the bone.
- Cut through the shoulder joint where it meets the breast to remove the wing. The wings are generally served whole.
- To carve the breast, make a base cut (a deep horizontal cut just above the wing). Starting up near the breastbone, carve thin slices parallel to the ribcage, cutting all the way down to your base cut.
- Arrange turkey slices on platter. To keep warm, cover with foil.
There you have it, a few tips for a terrific turkey. The holidays are stressful enough without having to deal with turkey trauma so relax and enjoy the cooking experience. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!