Have you ever been left scratching your head, staring at your turkey, wondering where you went wrong? Cooking the perfect turkey can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Are you making any of these common mistakes? Read on to see a handful of mistakes that can easily set you back when cooking a turkey.
1. Forgetting To Thaw Your Turkey
Don’t forget to place the turkey in the refrigerator to thaw out in time for the big day or this could be potential for disaster. It’s so easy to forget this crucial step. Thawing a frozen turkey takes time, and you need to prepare.
Allow the turkey to thaw in the fridge for 24 hours for every four pounds. For example, if you have a 20-pound turkey, plan to allow your turkey 5 days to thaw out. Although you can still cook a frozen turkey, we wouldn’t recommend it. The turkey won’t be able to be brined, or have your favorite spice rub and stuffing it will be problematic. It will also take 50 percent longer to cook.
2. You’re Washing Your Raw Turkey In The Sink
It’s good practice to not clean the turkey or any raw meats in your sink before preparing them for a dish to avoid the spread of harmful bacteria. When meat is cooked correctly, any bacteria will be eliminated during the cooking process.
3. Not Drying Your Turkey
Drying your turkey before it goes in the oven helps create a delicious crispy texture. Not drying the surface will result in an unpleasant soggy and limp appearance.
4. Not Allowing Your Turkey To Come To Room Temperature
Remove your turkey from the fridge, thirty minutes to an hour before roasting, to remove the chill from the refrigerator to allow a more even cook.
5. Not Using an Instant Read Meat Thermometer
Turkey’s sometimes come with their own pop-up timer. The pop-up timers are not always correct and can give you a false reading, leading you to believe that your turkey is done. Every kitchen should have a traditional instant-read meat thermometer, whether it be a dial or digital. They’re a much more precise and safe test of doneness than a pop-up timer.
6. Not Seasoning Your Turkey
Don’t forget to season your turkey for an unforgettable savory flavor. A traditional yet straightforward seasoning would include olive oil or butter massaged on to the turkey’s skin, in addition to sprinkling the inside and outside with some salt and pepper.
7. Not Using a Roasting Pan
It’s imperative to use a roasting pan when preparing a large turkey. It ensures an even cook, inhibits burning, and overall dryness. It also helps you have better control with its handles, manipulating the pan when you need to remove it from the oven. Roasting pans are relatively inexpensive and a good investment for your kitchen.
8. Stuffing The Turkey
Cooking the stuffing in the bird is not wrong. However, it can create problems in how evenly the turkey cooks. It’s not uncommon for someone to read 165 degrees on the meat thermometer and neglect to check the temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing in the turkey should also read 165 degrees, regardless of the temperature of the turkey. I’d suggest being vigilant of the temperature of the stuffing or cooking it separately in a casserole dish.
9. Not Knowing How Long To Cook The Turkey
According to what method you choose to cook your turkey, it’s incredibly important to know how long to cook your bird and at what temperature. It’s essential so you can get an even cook. You can also plan to prepare your side dishes around the time your turkey is cooking.
10. Not Checking The Temperature In The Right Place
When the bird is cooked according to the chart, use the dial or digital thermometer to check for proper doneness. To be sure that your turkey is done, check the temperature in three places, starting at the innermost part of the thigh, wing, and thickest part of the turkey’s breast. Be careful to avoid bones as this can result in a false reading. Your thermometer should read 165 degrees everywhere you’ve measured.
11. Not Letting The Turkey Rest
Place your turkey on a cutting board and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. Allowing the turkey to rest helps maintain the tenderness and moistness of the meat. The fibers within the turkey will relax, and fewer juices will escape.
Sometimes you may think your meat thermometer is untrustworthy and you make the decision to keep the turkey in a little longer. Be careful not to cook a turkey over 165 degrees, as this will cause the meat to dry out. Also, remember that meat continues to cook as it rests outside of the oven.
13. Tossing Pan Drippings
Don’t toss your pan drippings, they can be used for a decadent gravy. Find a great recipe for pan dripping gravy here.
14. Opening the Oven Door Frequently
It’s tempting, but you shouldn’t keep opening and closing the oven door to check on the turkey. The oven loses heat everytime the door is opened, potentially making an unstable heating environment resulting in an uneven cook. Be patient.
15. Not Using Aluminum Foil
You take a peak in the oven and notice that the delicate skin on your turkey is starting to brown too quickly and it’s nowhere near from being done! You begin to panic. The turkey is ruined! Wrong. Grab some aluminum foil and tent the turkey, redirecting the heat away from the skin.
16. Purchasing a Turkey That’s Already Seasoned
Be careful to check the ingredients on your turkey. It may have already been pre-brined. You don’t want to brine it again, add additional flavorings, making it over the top salty and inedible! Yuck!
17. Basting Your Turkey
Your oven loses heat everytime you open that door, creating an uneven cook. To prevent the turkey from drying out and keep it incredibly tender and flavorful, cover the bird with a cheesecloth. Prepare the cheesecloth by soaking it in a butter and wine mixture. The recipe for the butter wine cheesecloth dressing can be found here.
18. Not Buying Enough Food
If you want a real feast, be prepared and have at least two pounds of turkey per adult guest, and one pound per child. These amounts will keep everyone happy and guarantee some leftovers.
It’s not often we prepare a 15-20 pound bird in our oven, so we’re bound to make some mistakes. Thankfully, this holiday season you’ll be prepared for anything!