The turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving holiday, yet so many times it is dry, and sometimes even chewy. Cooking a turkey in the oven can make it dry unless you constantly bast it. Fortunately, I have the secret for how to cook your turkey in the oven easily and keep it juicy. You also need to cook it for the right time, and at the bottom, I also have cooking times per pound for your turkey.
Turkeys are the most difficult poultry to cook because their breasts are so much larger in proportion to the rest of their bodies. We also only cook them once or twice a year, so not many of us have that much practice at perfecting this huge bird. Cooking the turkey takes very special consideration to maintain it’s juiciness. I use every tip that I have heard over the years to perfect my turkey.
First I get the smallest turkey I can find. Small turkeys are younger, more tender, and juicier. It’s better to have 2 small juicy, tender turkeys, than one huge dry tough one.
The second thing I always do is purchase Reynold’s turkey size oven baking bags. My mom started using these when they first came on the market. Before then, she use to use brown paper bags, which should not be used now because the glue and ink in paper grocery bags could be toxic.
Another secret I learned from my mom was to slice a stick of butter in pats and put it under the skin. This even adds more flavor and also helps the breast to stay moist.
And we never, ever stuff the bird with stuffing. Instead, I use garlic, onions and fresh herbs. The flavor of the garlic, onion and herbs will penetrate the turkey and make it incredibly flavorful.
I will not be brining my turkey tomorrow because I purchased a butterball turkey, which does not have to be brined because it is pre-basted. If you purchase a turkey today that is not pre-basted, it is imperative that you do a brine on your turkey tonight to help keep it juicy. We have lots of excellent turkey brine tips, tricks, and recipes here.
Here is the recipe I am using tomorrow to keep my bird as juicy as possible.
A Turkey Recipe for the Juiciest Turkey Possible
the smallest whole turkey you can find
1 large bunch of Sage
1 large bunch of Rosemary
1 large bunch of Thyme
1 stick butter, sliced in pats
1 large onion, cut in wedges
1 head of garlic, separate cloves and remove skins
1/2 bottle pinot grigio or other dry white wine
Internal Probe Thermometer
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash turkey and remove giblets. Pat turkey dry. Salt and pepper turkey inside it’s cavity and on the outside. Place sliced butter under the breast’s skin. Place turkey inside the baking bag, and place turkey in it’s bag, on a roasting pan. Stuff turkey with garlic, onions, and herbs. Pour wine in the cavity of the turkey and around bird.
2. Place thermometer, if using, in the center of the thigh.
3. Bake turkey at 350 degrees according to the times listed below, or until turkey thermometer in thigh, reaches 180 degrees.
8-12 lb Turkey for 1 1/2 to 2 hr
12-16 lb Turkey for 2 to 2 1/2 hr
16-20 lb Turkey for2 1/2 to 3 hr
20-24 lb Turkey for 3 to 3 1/2 hr
Photo Credit: iStockphoto/ DNY59