Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to cook a Turkey

from pioneer woman cooks

1.  First of all, you have to thaw out your turkey.  It needs to sit in the fridge for about five hours per pound.  This means you have to buy your bird several days in advance, so plan ahead!

2.  Once the bird has thawed completely, you can start the brining process.  This is where you soak the meat in a salty liquid beforehand and makes it moist and flavorful.  

Basic Brine ingredients:
1 cup Salt
1 cup Sugar
1 gallon Water

You can choose any seasoning combination you like.  There are some with apples and cinnamon, lemons, brown sugar, it was hard to decide on just one.  
This is the one I used last time:
4 cloves Garlic (minced)
1 Tbsp Rosemary
1 Tbsp Sage
1 Tbsp Thyme
1 Tbsp Parsley
10 Peppercorns     

Put the water in a pot with the spices and let boil for about 10 minutes.  Then remove and let it cool down, once it is at room temperature get it into the fridge until cold.  Next, open up the turkey and remove the bags of giblets and neck.  If the legs are tucked into the skin, let them loose and carefully rinse the entire bird.  Put the entire bird into a large plastic bag (something thick so it wont leak) or bucket (if you can find one that will fit in your fridge) and pour the spicy water into the bag.  Close it tightly, trying to get as much air as possible out of the bag.  Then put it back in the fridge for another 16-24 hours.  Rotate it every once in a while to make sure all sides of the turkey are getting a proper brining.  

3.  Cooking the turkey takes several hours (about 15-20 minutes per pound), so be sure to start your bird early so it is finished in time for the meal.  Preheat the oven to 275 F.  Take the bird out of the brining bag, dump out the contents and rinse the bird off really well inside and out.  Tuck the legs together and tie them up with kitchen string.  (This is only for aesthetic reasons)  Wrap the turkey entirely in tin foil and place on the oven rack with a deep pan underneath to catch all of the juices (also drop in a 1/2 cup of water to prevent burning).  For right now you will bake this turkey at this temperature for about 10 minutes per pound.  (so a 20 lb turkey would go for 3 1/2 hours, while a 15 lb turkey would go for about 2 1/2 hours)  There is more cooking time after this first segment, but you will up the temperature.  Leave the turkey in the oven and start getting other things done.  

4.  When it's time to remove your turkey, melt a stick of butter in a small bowl (you can add spices if you wish).  Remove the turkey from the oven and take off the foil (save it for later!).  Increase oven temperature to 375 F.  Using a basting brush, cover the bird with butter.  This will give it a golden color, so be generous!  Next, insert your meat thermometer into the thigh area, near the hip joint.  You will take out the bird about every 30 minutes or so to baste it again with butter.  The skin will slowly begin to turn a lovely golden brown, but it is not finished until the internal temperature is somewhere between 165-170 F.  It is important to get it up to this temperature to make sure it is cooked all of the way through.  Once it is up to that temperature, pull the turkey out and peer inside.  If the juices are pinkish, put it back in for a few more minutes.  If not, the turkey is done.  Congratulations!  Wrap it in foil to keep it warm until time to eat.  

5.  Next it is time to make the gravy.  

Turkey drippings
5-6 Tbsp Flour
1 cup Chicken or Turkey stock

Take the deep pan that has been collecting juices while the bird was baking.  Pour the liquid into a bowl and set aside.  The pan should be flecked with little flavorful bits.  Stick the entire pan on the stove (it may cover two burners) and turn them on to low heat.  
Once the fat has separated from the liquid drippings, drop 3-4 Tbsp into the pan and skim off the rest of the fat to put in a separate bowl.  Next add 5-6 Tbsp of flour into the pan and with a whisk, stir the flour up with the fat, being sure to scrape up the bottom and get all of the flavor loose.  It will turn into a paste (If it looks to oily, add flour.  Too dry?  Add more fat)  Cook on this low heat, stirring constantly, until flour begins to brown.  Then add the stock (low sodium is best) stirring to mix all of the lovely flavors together.  Lastly, you will add the drippings (with the fat skimmed off) and pour them into the mixture.  Now you will cook the gravy for several minutes in order for the gravy to thicken.  If it is too thick, slowly add more stock or water.  If it is too thin, mix a couple of tablespoons with flour until smooth and pour it into the gravy.  Sprinkle with pepper and enjoy -- you are ready to eat!         

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