Ok, maybe you’re wondering how we dashed from Halloween Cookies straight to Turkey, barely stopping to brush the peanut buttery crumbs off our chin, but you see – I’m getting a jump start on holiday cooking posts, because Canadian Thanksgiving happened a couple of weeks ago. Plus, it’s never too early to start curating your holiday menu on Pinterest.
Cooking a turkey can be intimidating for not just a new cook, but even a seasoned home cook who is simply not used to cooking a massive beast. Happily, it is actually really easy. The two main things to aim for are: 1. don’t overcook it and 2. don’t undercook it. We’re not reaching for the stars, here!
In order to achieve this, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a cooking thermometer. I’m really geeking out about this one, sent to me by ThermoWorks to test drive – it has a probe that stays in the food while it cooks, and alerts you when the internal temperature you’ve programmed is reached.
You also want to make sure your turkey is thawed completely before cooking – this can take several days in the fridge, so plan accordingly. I recommend buying fresh, which means planning in advance and placing an order with your butcher or grocery store, as they often sell out.
I keep things really simple – melted butter, coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper all over the bird. I start the roasting process at a high temperature with the bird upside down, which does several things – it really crisps up the skin on the bottom, which can otherwise be soggy; it jumpstarts the cooking of the dark meat, which takes the longest; and it helps the juices flow into the breast-meat, which can help keep it moist.
There’s no basting – I stopped when Alton Brown told me that repeatedly opening the oven ultimately increase cooking time, so what you gain in flavoured skin, you lose in moistness of white meat.
I don’t stuff the bird, because it’s a food safety issue – in order for stuffing to reach a safe internal temperature, the breast will almost certainly be dried out.
The only additional step you might consider is brining the turkey – letting it soak in a salt-sugar-water solution helps season the meat and draw moisture in. Tips on that here.
- 1 turkey, fresh or thawed completely (calculate approximately 1 lb per serving)
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- freshly ground pepper
- Remove turkey from refrigerator one hour prior to roasting (this allows for more even cooking).
- Preheat oven to 425ºF. Brush turkey all over with melted butter, season liberally with salt and pepper, and place breast-side down on an oiled rack inside a roasting pan. Roast 1 hour, then remove from oven and flip the turkey, using oven mitts. Reduce oven temperature to 325º and roast breast side up until a thermometer placed in thickest part of thigh registers 165ºF (make sure it’s not touching the bone), 2 to 3 1/2 hours more (about 10 minutes per pound more in addition to the first hour at high heat).
- Transfer turkey to cutting board and tent with foil; let rest 30 minutes before carving.