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How to Cook a Turkey

It’s Thanksgiving this weekend in Canada, and plenty of turkeys are being stuffed, prepped and slid into ovens right about now. This was the bird we ate for dinner last night; as I tweeted it coming out of the oven, people asked how we did it that way – how do you get the skin brown? How long do you cook it for? Here are some turkey cooking tips.

THE BIRD: To begin, start with a good-quality turkey. We’re partial to Winter’s turkeys, free range and raised without antibiotics or hormones close by in Dalemead, Alberta. Of course the turkey you choose will depend on where you live.

THAWING: if you start with a frozen turkey, it can be thawed in the fridge, but that takes awhile – by the time the middle is thawed, the outside has been thawed for days. I prefer thawing mine in the sink, or in a big bucket or pot full of water. The Winters suggest allowing 1 hour per pound of turkey if you do it this way.

PREPPING: I don’t bother trussing my turkey, but it is important to ensure you pat the skin dry with paper towels if you want it to brown and crisp nicely. Stuff it loosely if you like, using your favourite stuffing recipe. Never pack it in, or stuff it in advance – do this right before you roast it. Alternatively, the stuffing can be prepared separately and placed in a covered casserole dish to cook during the last hour of the turkey roasting time.

Place turkey breast side up on a rack in roasting pan. Drizzle with oil or rub with soft butter, and rub all over the outside of the bird with your fingers. Season with salt and pepper or your favourite herbs and spices. If you like, insert an oven-safe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, being careful to not touch the bone.

TURKEY ROASTING TIMES: Cover the turkey loosely with foil or the roaster lid. Roast in a preheated 325° to 350° F (160° – 180° C) oven. The Winters suggest the general rule of thumb for cooking a stuffed turkey at 325° F is 15 minutes per pound (30 minutes per kilogram). Begin checking for doneness about one hour before the end of the recommended roasting time. And remember that fresh turkeys tend to cook faster. We remove the foil halfway through to ensure the skin crisps and browns nicely.

They also have some basting advice: If you choose to baste your turkey, limit the number of times you open and close your oven (once an hour is sufficient). To brown skin further, remove foil or roaster lid approximately 1 hour before done.

WHEN IT’S DONE: A meat thermometer in the inner thigh reads 180° F (82° C) for a stuffed turkey or 170° F (77° C) for an unstuffed turkey. Remember that when cooked to perfection the turkey meat and juices may have a slight pink tinge – the temperature of the meat is the most important sign of doneness.

It’s important to let your bird rest before carving. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, cover it with foil and let it stand for 20-25 minutes before carving. This will help retain its natural juices, keeping the meat tender and juicy.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

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How to Cook a Turkey | dinner recipes | best recipes

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner seems overwhelming, but it needn’t be. Here are nine easy steps to get your turkey to the table without breaking a sweat.

Nine easy steps to turkey perfection:

• Plan on one and a half pounds of meat per person. Frozen turkeys thaw at a rate of four to five pounds per twenty four hours. So if your turkey is still in the freezer, put it in the refrigerator now.

• Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey’s cavity. You may need to reach in from both sides. Then, rinse your turkey, inside and out, with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels.

• For tender meat, dry brine your fresh or frozen turkey by rubbing in one tablespoon of kosher salt for every five pounds of turkey. Stick your salted turkey in an oven bag, seal and let it salt in your refrigerator for two or three days. Once a day, give it a brisk massage to redistribute the salt.

• While your turkey brines, make a compound butter using one cup butter and a fourth cup fresh herbs, or two tablespoons dried herbs. Chop some winter vegetables, like onions, turnips, carrots, and celery to stuff in your turkey for a richer flavor.

• Use your finger to loosen the skin, starting at the breastbone. Then, loosen the remaining skin with a bowl scraper.

• Rub your compound butter on the skin as well as beneath it. Then, stuff your turkey with your chopped vegetables.

• Truss the turkey with cotton string or unwaxed dental floss. Tie its legs together, and fold its wings under the neck flap. Use a toothpick to secure.

• Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Set your turkey breast side down in a roasting pan, and pour some chicken stock in the base of it to steam your turkey while it cooks. After an hour, turn your turkey and baste.

• Allow twenty minutes of cooking time per pound. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. To measure, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast.

Now uncork a bottle of wine, sit back and enjoy great food with your family and friends.

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