13 Thanksgiving Turkey Tips

Don't wing it this holiday season. Get the secrets to cooking and handling your turkey properly.

Compiled by Meaghan Cameron from readersdigest.com
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    Raid Your Liquor Cabinet for a Browner Turkey

    About 15 minutes before you're ready to take your chicken or turkey out of the oven, brush the skin with white vermouth. It will take on a rich brown color, thanks to the sugars in the fortified wine.

    From Baking Soda, Banana Peels, Baby Oil and Beyond (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    Use a Dry Rub

    Want to avoid the hassle of liquid brine? Try seasoning the bird with a rub of about 1/3 cup of kosher salt, dried herbs and pepper overnight. This will add deep flavor without the mess of an overnight soak.

    From Talking Turkey: A Q&A With Thanksgiving 101 Author Rick Rodgers

    Baste for Big Flavor

    Rather than basting your Thanksgiving bird with pan drippings, use melted butter and wine, suggests Every Day with Rachael Ray. This duo will add a buttery tang to the meat and help keep it juicy. For a bigger flavor boost, whisk in your favorite herbs, garlic, or other seasonings.

    From 7 Quick Tips for an Easy Thanksgiving

    Defrost the Germ-Free Way

    Germs can grow quickly on fish, chicken, turkey, and other meats left at room temperature even while defrosting. Seal food in a zipper-lock bag and place in a large bowl of cold water, or under cold running water, until just thawed.

    From Disease Free (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    Make an Edible Turkey Rack

    Forget hard-to-clean, traditional roasting racks! Instead, crisscross whole carrots and celery stalks on the bottom of the roasting pan, and top with your chicken or turkey. Once it's done, your bird will emerge from the pan without a hitch, and the pan gravy will be enhanced by the vegetables!

    From Baking Soda, Banana Peels, Baby Oil and Beyond (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    Stuff Your Turkey Fuss-Free

    To keep turkey dressing from sticking to the bird's insides, pack the dressing in cheesecloth before you stuff it into the turkey's cavity. When the turkey is ready to serve, pull out the cheesecloth and the stuffing will slide out with it.

    From Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    Begin with a Boil

    Assuming you have a fresh turkey or one that you’ve defrosted, you can cut the cooking time in half-with the bonus of serving a bird that is tastier and juicier than usual -- by boiling the bird before baking it. Here’s how to proceed with a typical 12-pound (5.4 kilogram) turkey:

    1. Place the turkey in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover it. Toss in salt, pepper, cut-up onion, and a total of 2 tablespoons of combined parsley, thyme, or other herbs.

    2. Bring the pot to a boil on the stovetop and then lower the heat to a simmer (with tiny bubbles rising along the side of the pot). Simmer uncovered for one hour; then drain the turkey.

    3. Prepare the turkey to roast as you normally would. Roast at 400° F (200° C) and check for doneness after an hour. (Pull a leg away from the body enough that you can puncture the inner thigh near the hip joint. If there’s no blood, the turkey is done.)

    The result will be a succulent, moist turkey, in half the normal cooking time! Try it if you’re tired of turkey the consistency of polystyrene foam plastic.

    From Five-Minute Fixes (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    Break Out the Thermometer

    Cook until the bird reaches the recommended internal temperatures, which for turkey (and whole chicken, duck or goose) is 180°F. And remember that the stuffing should hit 165°F, the same temperature as your reheated leftovers.

    From Disease Free (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    No Thermometer? Use the Joint-and-Juice Test

    Because most poultry is sold with its skin on, it is susceptible to spoilage from bacteria that remain on the skin and in the cavity after processing. Poultry is properly cooked when the leg joints move easily and the juices run clear if the thigh is pierced with a knife.

    From Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal (Reader's Digest Association Books))

    Whip Up a Quick Gravy

    Brown the turkey giblets and trimmings in a hot oven or under the grill, drain off the fat, and simmer the browned scraps with vegetables and herbs (an unpeeled onion stuck with a clove, a celery stalk, carrot, leek and turnip; thyme, parsley stems, peppercorns and a bay leaf) to make a rich stock.

    From Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    Keep the Carcass

    You can make a virtual vat of homemade stock from the leftover carcass (and those veggies and herbs that might be lurking in your crisper) and save yourself a lot of dough in the long run.

    From Early Bird Specials (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    Freeze Safely

    Whole, uncooked chickens or turkeys can be frozen for up to a year. If you plan to freeze a bird for more than a few months, remove the giblets and freeze separately. Cooked chicken and turkey, properly wrapped, can keep in the freezer for two to three months. Be sure to remove all air from the freezer bag before popping it into the freezer.

    From Long Life for Your Stuff (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    Be Careful with Leftovers

    According to the Louisiana State University Agriculture Center, you have about two hours from the time you remove a turkey from the oven to safely serve and refrigerate or freeze your leftovers. This includes turkey, stuffing, and gravy. Here’s why: Bacteria grow fast. They can multiply to undesirable levels on perishable food left at room temperature for more than two hours and can cause food-borne illness. Here are some more tips on handling turkey or other poultry:

    1. Before refrigerating or freezing: Remove the meat from the bones. Legs and wings may be left whole.

    2. If you’re freezing turkey and stuffing, wrap each separately, using heavy foil or freezer wrap, or place it in a freezer container.

    3. For best quality, use frozen turkey and stuffing within a month. It will lose moisture after that, thereby diminishing texture and flavor. Use refrigerated leftovers within three days.

    From Long Life for Your Stuff (Reader's Digest Association Books)

    PLUS:
    5 Quick Ways to Decorate Your Thanksgiving Table
    24 Party-Ready Pantry Items

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    Your Comments

    • Erosenberg48

      when making chicken soup, I follow the same format that was described for boiling the turkey and then simmering.  I use a lot of vegetables and seasoning.  However, I never roast the chicken from the chicken soup.  We just eat it in the soup!

    • STEVNTERI

      GREAT IDEAS !! I WILL USE THESE HINTS 4 SURE !!

    • Ann Showalter

      Will these tips work for a turkey breast?  I am cooking two breasts instead of a whole turkey.  My family only eats white meat!

    • Lorenza Dexter

      Very informative!! I am impressed.

    • Sean O

      What I like to do is cut a mire poix ( carrots, onions, celery)  large dice and put this under the turkey and add a mix of chicken stock and water the drain the liquid after cooking to make the gravy and serve the mire poix as a veg side dish.

      • DEARLADY22

        THANK YOU!!!!!!