Tempting Tips for Your Holiday Turkey

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Avoid your Thanksgiving turkey troubles with our simple turkey tips.

Turkey Purchasing
The general rule for buying turkey is planning on 1 ½ pounds per person. For 8 people, a 12 pound turkey should be more than enough for dinner (and for leftover turkey sandwiches the next day!)

What Kind Should I buy?
Free Range Turkey: these turkeys have room to roam and can graze outside of a cage.

Organic Turkey: are free range and raised without antibiotics or added hormones.

Kosher Turkey: have undergone a salting process after slaughter that leaves them juicer and more flavorful after roasting. Do not brine these turkeys, as they will become too salty.

Heritage Turkey: generally tend to have a gamey turkey flavor. Their breasts are smaller, so are more prone to overcooking, and they have longer legs so they have more dark meat than the standard super market turkeys.

Enhanced or Self Basted Turkeys: These turkeys are injected with a brine solution to help them stay moist after being frozen for a long period of time. It can leave the turkey with an off spongy texture but will stay moist. Check the labels on your turkey if you’re avoiding this type of bird, as it’s not clearly labeled. Turkey should be the only listed ingredient.

Fresh vs. Frozen
Fresh turkeys are generally more expensive than frozen turkeys and some purists think that the meat is more flavorful and juicy in fresh turkeys. Yet the USDA allows turkeys to be labeled as fresh to be chilled as low as 26 degrees, which is cold enough for the turkey’s cavity to begin to freeze. In reality, even if buying a “fresh” turkey, you could still end up with a partly frozen turkey, so why not save a few bucks and just go with the frozen? Of course, if buying a specialty or heirloom turkey directly from a farm or butcher, fresh is always recommended. It’s important to plan ahead. You often have to place your specialty order weeks ahead of time.

Thawing Your Turkey
Allow enough time to thaw your turkey. A 12 pound turkey will take 3 days to thaw in your refrigerator.  For people without the luxury of time or refrigerator space, you can defrost a turkey in a sink filled with cold water (changing the water every 30 minutes). A 12 pound turkey should defrost in about 6 hours. Do not defrost your turkey overnight at room temperature.

To Brine or not to Brine
Brining a turkey adds flavor and moisture to your turkey by soaking it overnight in a solution of water, salt, and other flavorings such as herbs, sugar, and aromatics. They are juicer and more flavorful, especially in the breast area that can be prone to drying out. Make sure the turkey is fully submerged in the liquid for best results. Using an easy to find store bought brining bag makes this simple. If your turkey can’t fit in your refrigerator, place the turkey in the brining bag into an ice filled cooler and place it outside, making sure it the cooler temperature is below 40 degrees.

Stuffing the Bird
People generally fall into two camps: those who love to stuff their turkey and those who cook it separately in a casserole dish. Cooking the stuffing in the bird adds delicious flavor and moisture to the finished product but also raises concerns of food safety. If cooking your stuffing inside the turkey, be sure to use an instant read thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 degrees. Roasting times will be longer in a stuffed turkey.

Is It Done Yet?
The biggest anxiety of Thanksgiving dinner is knowing when the turkey is ready to come out of the oven. The best way to tell is to use an instant read digital thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh (which takes the longest time to cook). The internal temperature should read 165 degrees. When it hits the 165 mark, remove the turkey from the roasting pan to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and rest for a full 30 minutes before carving so the juices can redistribute before carving.

More Helpful Thanksgiving Tips:
How to Carve a Turkey
Making Giblet Grave
Decorative Pie Crusts

Turkey Recipes:
Deep Fried Turkey
Orange Apricot Turkey
Rum Glazed Turkey

Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.

Read More From Thanksgiving.

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Reader Comments:

54321

Dear Paula I so much love and enjoy your shows,cooking and baking and especially you.I really some day hope I can meet you .You are my inspiraton of being someday like you.I wish you and your family the best holidays Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!!Best Dishes from my kitchen to yours love you Ms.Paula XO Love Angelic from El Paso Texas

By Angelic Huizar on December 18, 2012

54321

aLWAYS APPRECIATE ANY TIPS. THIS YEAR WEARE TAKING MY OLDEST DAUGHTER AND FAMILY OUT TO AN OLD RESTAURANT, I DO HOWEVER MISS THE LEFTOVERS, BUT I WILL PROBABLY END UP BRINGING HOME AN EXTRA MEAL JUST FOR MOI, LOL. MAY U ALL ENJOY THE DAY AND ALL THE MEMORIES ONE MAKES. SO ENJOYED YOUR SPECIAL WHEN U AND DONNA COOKED FOR THE BOYS HOME, SUCH A SPECIAL JOY TO SEE, PRECIOUS TIME AND RELATIONSHIP U HAVE WITH THOSE YOUNG MEN PAULA, I KNOW THEY ARE VERY DEAR TO YOU AND MICHAEL. NOW SOON WE WILL BE GETTING READY FOR ANOTHER MEMORY MAKER. CHRISTMAS. HUGS ROSIE IN CT.

By R. Herdman on November 20, 2012

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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 3:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm