How To Roast a Turkey

Dear Tyler,

Roasting a good turkey takes time.

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....

See the pop-up timer in the bird? (the white thing)

Your first turkey!

The adventure begins.

If you use an aluminum roasting pan, put a sheet pan under it and do not lift the foil pan without the sheet pan support.

The bird:

Defrost:

See the post on 4 ways to safely thaw food.

Whenever you handle poultry products, act as if you are handling potential contaminates.

Defrost in the refrigerator: at least 5 hours per pound.

If on roasting day it is still not thawed, complete the thawing under clean running water. Again, see 4 safe methods for thawing food.

Be sure to wash your sink both before and after rinsing the bird.

Remove the bird from the wrapper. Do this in the sink because of all the juices that will be in the bag from defrosting. If your bird has a bag of giblets, neck and livers, remove it. Some use these to make a stock and gravy but I don’t.

Your Grandfather (my dad) loves the neck! He would boil it and then pick all the little slivers of meat off the tiny neck bones, savoring every morsel.

You, on the other hand, can throw them away unless you like such things.

Rinse the bird.

Pat the bird dry with paper towels.

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.

Before the oven gets hot, take a look at the shelves and adjust them so the turkey will fit in. In my oven the only rack that will fit is the bottom rack. It leaves just the right amount of space between the top heating elements and the bird.

While the oven is preheating, finish preparing the bird.

Place your aluminum roasting pan onto a sheet pan for safety. The aluminum pan is not strong enough to hold a 15-pound bird without support.

Chop carrots , celery and onions (not you, Tyler) to line the bottom of the roasting pan.

Chop your carrots and celery into chunks and place them on the bottom of the pan. If you liked onions, you would put some of those in there too. Since you don’t like them, leave them out.

Place the turkey, breast side up into the pan. Tuck the wings under the shoulders so the tips don’t burn in the long roasting process.

Gently loosen the skin and press some seasoned butter under the skin. This will help baste the bird as it roasts.

Season the skin and place some herbs, orange or citrus fruit into the cavity. Season inside the bird too. Season it with salt, pepper, your favorite spice mixture, what ever seasonings you like.

Tie the legs together and plump up the breasts.

Cover with bacon strips to baste the turkey during the initial phase of roasting. Remember the large bird will roast for several hours. After the first 2-3 hours, the bacon will be done, remove it and this becomes the “cooks treat”. Continue roasting the bird, basting every 30-40 minutes. The skin will crisp and become golden brown. If the skin starts to get too brown before the bird is done, tent it with foil.

Cover the surface of the turkey with bacon strips.

Place the supported roasting pan into the oven. Reduce the heat to 325°F. Roast until the internal temperature reads 165°F or higher in the leg or thigh. For your 15 pound bird that will take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, maybe longer.

My 17 pound bone-in breast took 6 hours.

If the bird starts to get too brown, cover it with a tin foil tent.

When the bird is done, remove from the oven and allow the bird to rest at least 1/2 hour (covered in foil) before carving.

How do you carve a turkey? I found this video on You Tube that shows you step by step.

I didn’t have time to make a video for you, sorry.

Enjoy your Turkey! Take pictures of your first.

How odd in our culture, roasting your first turkey is some kind of right of passage.

I love cooking this meal and hope you do too.

Watch the carving video, use a sharp knife and enjoy your dinner!

Here is a tip:

Place your cutting board in a sheet pan to catch all the juices that run out while carving. Stir these juices into your gravy.

Tyler, remember, I am just a phone call away if you get stuck.

There are also many other “Turkey Hot Lines” for those  who get stuck.

If all else fails and you totally blow it, Chinese restaurants are usually open on Thanksgiving as an Emergency Back-up Unit.

Love you!

Mom

 

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How to Roast a Chicken

Here is another basic skills post about how to roast a chicken. The same principle applies to most birds, large or small. Ducks are just a bit different due to the amount of fat on them.

To select a whole chicken, carefully look at the wing tips, they should not be brown in any way. Slightly red is OK but no brown. Look at the neck area, same thing. These areas show age on market chickens. If they are fresh, they will be ‘chicken color’ and possibly red tips on the wings. No brown, green or purple.

The chicken should also not have any odor. Give it a sniff. Pass it by if you smell anything.

Sometimes the inside of the bird contains a small bag of the heart, liver, neck and gizzard. Remove this from the inside of the bird. Throw it away unless you eat heart, liver, neck and gizzard. My father made wonderful sauce from these parts. Sometimes I saute the hearts and livers but there is only one inside each bird so they become the cooks treat. YAY!

Thoroughly rinse the bird inside and out. Pat the bird dry.

Carefully, using your fingers, loosen the skin but do not tear it.

Look carefully, see the butter under the skin?

Insert compound butter between the skin and the meat, smoosh it around so it almost covers the meat and then rearrange the skin back in place. This will baste the meat with herbs and butter while the bird roasts.

What is compound butter? Soft butter with herbs and seasonings mixed in. Any combination, any flavors, your choice. Toss it in a mixer, mix it up, place in a container and use it anywhere you would use butter. The butter I used here contained thyme, garlic, lemon, shallot and pepper.

To give the bird some flavor while roasting, insert herbs, onion and garlic into the cavity. For this bird I used rosemary, thyme and onion and a bay leaf.

For food safety sake, if you want stuffing, bake it in a separate pan. See note below regarding food safety.

On the bottom of the roasting pan, place chopped carrots, celery and onion (25% carrots, 25% celery, 50% onion ratio) and 1/2 cup or so of water or stock.

Professionally, we call this vegetable ratio “mirepoix”.

Tie the legs together with butchers twine or cotton string. Run the string around the legs and thighs and tie it off under the wings. This holds the bird together in a nice compact bird-like shape, controls the legs and plumps the breasts.

This is how you get a good-looking finished bird that isn’t splaying its parts all over the place.

Season the birds skin. I used Montreal Steak Seasoning for this one. Season as you like.

Season, tie the legs and truss the chicken. Place on top of vegetables to roast.

Place the tied and stuffed bird in the roasting pan on top of the vegetables.

Roast the bird in a 350°F oven for about 2 hours or so for a 3 pound bird. Please use a thermometer to test for 180°F internal temperature in the thigh, not near a bone.

The dark meat takes longer to cook so you test there. Please be sure to cook your chicken all the way.

There is nothing as unappealing as cutting into a whole roasted bird and have blood come out. Obviously, it goes back into the oven to finish cooking, if that happens.

When the bird is done, allow it to “rest” for about 15-20 minutes before carving. This is when I prepare the vegetables and put the final touches on the meal.

Food safety really comes into play with handling chicken.

  • Keep the bird cold.
  • Sanitize the work area with a mild bleach after preparing and handling the bird.
  • We are trying to avoid contaminating our families with Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni in particular.
  • If your bird is frozen do not allow it to thaw on the counter or in the sink. Put it under cold water that you change frequently or in the refrigerator which takes 2-3 days to thaw, so plan ahead.
  • Always sanitize everything that chicken and your hands come in contact with during preparation with a mild bleach solution when you finish. Knives, boards, spoons, counters, sinks, knobs, handles, towels, aprons, etc.

To make a sauce, use the drippings in the bottom of the roasting pan. Deglaze with chicken stock or white wine. Strain the liquid from the roasting pan into a sauce pot. Bring to a simmer.

Mix equal parts of butter and flour together in a small bowl. Drop small pea sized pearls of the flour and butter mixture into the simmering stock, whisk to incorporate. Season as desired. Simmer for 10-15 minutes to cook out the starch taste. Finish with a pat of cold butter whisked in, adjust salt and pepper. Strain again if desired.

Roasted chicken with sauteed beet greens

We sautéed the beet greens we had on hand from the pickled beet post. Yummy stuff.

There will be another post soon on “How to Cut Up a Chicken”

Enjoy roasting your chickens! I adore the aroma, it smells like home and all things wonderful.