It’s time for a special two-part edition of Kitchen Talk, and today, our topic is turkey. So, let’s have it:
Why do they call 3 strikes in a row a turkey?
Leave your comments below, then stay tuned tomorrow for another related topic!
Just kidding. (Although I really do want to know why.)
Okay, seriously now. Here’s our topic for today:
What are your favorite tips for preparing a whole turkey?
I confess, cooking a whole turkey intimidates me. It’s huge, it takes hours in the oven, it’s huge, it seems to take forever to defrost properly, and it’s huge. I think I was in my early twenties when I first laid eyes on a whole roasted turkey. I only remember that it took up almost the entire table. I don’t recall enjoying it all that much; I think it was dry and a bit bland.
Years later, my sister-in-law had an extra turkey in her freezer and gave it to me. I had watched enough Food Network shows to be convinced that brining was the way to go, so I went with an Emeril concoction that involved apple cider, beer, cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, orange zest, garlic, ginger, and salt. Shortly after putting the turkey into the murky brine, we had a family emergency and I ended up having to leave the turkey in the fridge brining for almost 3 days. We roasted it anyway (not sure if that was completely safe, but we’re all still alive so far) and it was super moist and tasted like honey roasted turkey. As a bonus, I reheated leftovers in a skillet with some butter and smoked paprika and had smoked honey roasted turkey sandwiches for about 17 days.
I realize it’s not a very exciting turkey story, but I really don’t have much turkey cooking experience. I do know that I once tasted a whole fried turkey that was later basted with spicy barbecue sauce and I think that is still the best turkey I’ve ever had. But frying a whole turkey scares me (because it’s huge!) so please invite me over if you have a responsible adult, preferably a fireman, frying a turkey for dinner.
My only tip is a basic one: brine, and use a brining bag. I used to balk at spending money for brining bags, but really, it’s the best way to go. You end up needing so much more brining liquid if you use a giant pail, and it’s unwieldy. And did I mention you’re going to need a big pail? For the huge turkey?
Nanci is much better at roasting turkeys than I am, and the biggest tip she can give is to get your turkey early if buying it frozen and let it thaw in a pan in the refrigerator for several days. Big turkeys can take 5 to 7 days to properly thaw. It’s hard to safely rush thawing a turkey so it’s best to plan ahead. She says, “I know. Your fridge feng shui will be off with that monster in there for so long but hang in there. Or buy fresh the day before! And obviously don’t forget to clean out both cavities before you cook the turkey (been there, done that, and it’s a mess). It’s also key to use a meat thermometer or pop-up timer because many times it will get fully cooked before you expect it to be done.”
Ree stopped by to share her favorite tip with us, too. She says, “If you brine your turkey, rinse it then soak it in a sink of cold water for 15 minutes after removing it from the brine. That helps with the issue of salty drippings.”
Now let’s hear from you! What tips do you have for preparing a whole turkey? Do you brine? If you do, have any favorite brine recipes or flavors? Do you have a special technique for carving the bird when it’s done? Share your wisdom below, and do come back tomorrow for part two of this week’s Kitchen Talk!