BY: PHILIP DEWAR
Although Thanksgiving has passed, we have another big holiday coming up in Christmas. This year, make sure your turkey is cooked perfectly so it can be the star of the table.
All too often turkey comes out overcooked, dry and so dependent on packaged gravy that the meat becomes an afterthought. Considering it takes the most effort to prepare, it should be the best part of the meal otherwise you’re wasting your time! Breaking some common traditions about cooking a turkey will deliver an incredibly moist, juicy and tender bird for the big day!
- Do not stuff your turkey with bread stuffing! – This has been the most common method for decades. Why do you think this kind of stuffing tastes so great? Because it’s loaded with all the moisture from the turkey! All the bread inside stuffing is sucking out all juice and completely drying out the meat. Cook your stuffing on the stove top instead, and to get the richness you need sauté some bacon and then cook your stuffing in the same pan. Same (if not more) flavour and you won’t dry out the turkey
- Do stuff it with aromatics! – Chop an onion and lemon in quarters and stuff. Add some garlic cloves and a few bay leaves. As the turkey cooks the lemon and onion will steam and their moisture and flavours will permeate the turkey from the inside. Instead of drying juice out, it will actually infuse the meat and add wonderful flavour as well! This will also help create a complex gravy for you to use as well.
- Prepare a compound butter and stuff inside the skin – This sounds a bit complicated but it’s really not. Prepare a compound butter by combining 1 stick of unsalted butter, a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil and the zest of 1 lemon. mix everything together at room temperature and form it into a ball. With the turkey, you’ll want to begin to separate the skin from the breasts at both ends.. not all the way through because you don’t want the butter to melt away too much. Insert the butter in between the skin and the breast and pat it down flat so it covers as much as possible. Now you’ve got flavour and moisture coming from the inside and the outside! Rub any remaining butter on the outside of the turkey to help brown the skin during cooking
- Start it hot then let it cook slowly! – Preheat the oven to 425F. Put the turkey in the hot oven for 15 minutes. Remove it and baste while turning the oven down to 350F. Reinsert and let it cook slowly for about 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes per kg) while basting occasionally. What this does is immediately start the browning process on the outside. Doing this first instead of waiting until the end and leaving it in the oven an extra 30 minutes will prevent you from overcooking and, once again, drying it out!
- Let it rest – All too often once the turkey comes out of the oven carving happens right away. Don’t! Let it rest in the roasting pan with a lid on for about 30 minutes. It seems like a long time, but the turkey will not get cold, promise. This will relax all the juices and keep it held in the flesh as opposed to carving right away.
Follow these steps and we guarantee you will have an amazingly rich, moist, tender and flavorful turkey to be the star of your Christmas dinner!