Chef Lauren Braun Costello, The Competent Cook, has roasted quite a few turkeys in her life. So, when we sat down with her to ask her what tips she has for turkey-roasters this Thanksgiving, she had lots of helpful information to share.
1. Never buy too big of a bird. Anything more than 14 pounds is just too big to cook well. If you have a big crowd coming, just buy two 11 or 12-pound birds.
2. Undress that bird! There are so many problems with stuffing a bird:
- The potential for the stuffing to fail to reach a food-safe temperature (which is 165 degrees), which is especially problematic when stuffing is made with raw meats and eggs.
- The stuffing stays wet, absorbing moisture from the bird, since very little of it is exposed to direct heat, which would allow it to become beautifully browned and crusty.
- The stuffing prolongs the cooking of the turkey, since air and heat cannot get to the cavity and circulate within the bird.
3. Season the bird both inside and out. VERY well. The cavity is just as important as the skin, as the flavors infuse the meat from within the bird as the hot air circulates in the cavity (especially if you don't stuff it).
4. Keep the over door shut!! When you want to baste the bird, open the oven door, put the turkey on the counter, and SHUT THE DOOR. Most people who complain that their bird took too long to cook, and therefore it dried out, are guilty of keeping the oven door open while they baste. That just lets out all the hot air and makes for a cold oven chamber.