It’s one of the most anticipated holidays of the year, and expectations for a great meal can run high. If you’re hosting family and friends this Thanksgiving, you might feel that the pressure is on to serve a perfect turkey. But relax…even if you are cooking your very first turkey, it’s not as difficult as you think. By planning ahead, reading up on proper roasting techniques, and having the right equipment on hand, you’ll set yourself up for Thanksgiving success. Here are some essential tips to get you started:
Select the right size turkey. A 12 pound turkey can serve 6-8 people, while a larger, 20 pound turkey can serve 12 people. If you’re hosting more than a dozen people, consider cooking two smaller turkeys instead of sizing up to an extra-large one. Bigger birds take longer to cook, and, due to their size, often cook unevenly.
Choose your cooking method. While some people prefer non-traditional methods such as deep-frying, smoking or even grilling, oven-roasting is still the most popular way to cook a turkey. It’s a relatively simple method that gives you juicy meat, browned and crispy skin, plus plenty of pan drippings for that all-important gravy.
Use a quality roasting pan. Whether you choose nonstick, stainless steel or hard-anodized aluminum, Calphalon roasters feature durable, commercial-quality construction that will serve you well for many years. All Calphalon roasters come with roasting racks, designed to give you great results and cook food evenly on all sides. Racks elevate your turkey, positioning it above pan drippings. This prevents your food from “stewing in its own juices” and promotes even browning and air circulation.
Give your turkey time to thaw. If you purchased a frozen turkey, it’s important to thaw it safely to help prevent food borne illness. Food safety experts recommend slowly thawing your turkey in the refrigerator. Using this method, a 12-pound turkey will take about 3 days to defrost. Larger turkeys will take even longer, so plan ahead to give your turkey adequate time to thaw before its time to cook.
Cook enough, but not too much. Cooking times will vary based on your oven temperature, turkey size, and whether or not your turkey is full of stuffing. For example, a medium-size 12-lb. stuffed turkey can take anywhere from 3½ to 4½ hours to cook in a 325°F oven. A meat thermometer is the most accurate way to determine doneness – experts advise that a turkey is done when the temperature reaches 180°F in the thigh, and 165°F in the breast and stuffing.
Out of the oven. Some roaster sets include lifters, tools to help you transfer heavy turkeys from the pan to the cutting board or serving plate. These tools are specially designed to help you lift safely and securely. After you’ve moved the turkey, let it stand for 15 minutes before carving. This rest time will allow it to reabsorb some of its juices, resulting in a moister, more delicious turkey.
The perfect slice. Use a traditional carving knife when it’s time to slice the turkey. Carving knives are shaped to help you make beautiful, even slices for a perfect presentation. They feature long, slender blades with curved cutting edges, plus pointed tips to help separate the meat from the bone before you slice.