Baking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey While there is no actual evidence that turkey was served at the first Pilgrim's Thanksgiving dinner, it has been a holiday tradition for families all over North America. Some speculate that the root of the turkey tradition is founded in a letter authored by William Bradford twenty two years after the event. The "History of the Plymouth Plantation", a letter to another pilgrim, detailed a governor sending four men out to hunt for fowl, returning with geese, duck, and turkey. The document was purportedly stolen by the British and rediscovered in the mid 1800's, when turkey became a popular dinner item. Since then turkey has been gracing the tables of North American families during the season of thanks. Cooking methods have evolved in the last 200 years; however few techniques rival the taste and texture of a traditionally baked turkey.
Thawing Turkey - Avoid Shortcuts! Thawing a completely frozen turkey takes time. In order to prevent harmful bacterial growth on the skin of the turkey, always thaw turkey (or any other frozen meat) at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey to thaw in a refrigerator. Never attempt to thaw frozen meat on a countertop or anywhere else above this critical temperature. While the center of the meat may still be frozen, harmful bacteria are growing in any layer of meat that rises above the 40 degree safe zone for thawing meats.
Remove Innards - Save Them for Later Once the bird has been given ample time to thaw, the innards should be removed. Most store bought turkeys will contain a bag of "giblets" in the chest cavity. Other turkeys may contain the parts without a bag. Either way, removing the innards is important. Since the chest cavity contains the neck, liver, and other organs, failing to remove them can cause an undesirable taste that infiltrates the meat during the cooking process. Don't throw them away, however, as they are great ingredients for other traditional Thanksgiving recipes like giblet gravy, stuffing, and dressing.
Frozen Turkey (10 lbs)
Butter or Margarine (2 Sticks, medium sliced)
Sliced Pineapple (Canned)
Whole Cherries (Can or Jar)
Onion (1, quartered)
Celery (2 stalks, sliced)
Salt (1 tbsp or To Taste)
Pepper (1 tbsp or To Taste)
Poultry Seasoning (2 tbsp or To Taste)
2 Garlic Cloves, sliced
Spicing and Marinating - For the Deli Sliced Look and Taste When properly seasoned and cooked, a great turkey breast looks like deli sliced meat from a local butcher. More over, the taste of that slice should be faceted with both the taste of light meat and subtle flavors of spice. Add to this just a little crispiness from the skin of the turkey and we have mastered the perfect baked turkey. (For those that wish to remove the skin of the turkey, try a glaze to accomplish this effect.) This doesn't happen on its own, however. Much of the effect comes from what is done before the cooking process begins. Consider getting "hands-on" by rubbing spices and seasoning into the skin of the turkey. (Be sure to wash hands with an anti-bacterial soap for 60 seconds after touching raw meats.) This step should be done at least three hours and up to twelve hours prior to baking the turkey.
Instructions: 1.Before applying spices, make small incisions in the skin of the turkey (don't slice the meat of the turkey) and insert sliced butter or margarine pieces on the upper portions of the bird between the skin and the meat.
2.Stuff the chest cavity, if preferred, with a favorite mixture of plain croutons, fruits, and spices.
3.Rub the skin of the turkey with 2 tbsp of olive oil
4.Rub all other ground spices and seasonings onto the skin of the turkey.
5.Arrange an oven bag inside an uncovered broiler pan, leaving the bag wide open.
6.Pour 1 cup of cold water or cold turkeychicken stock into the bag.
7.Arrange one half of pineapples, cherries, sliced celery and garlic in the bottom of the bag.
8.Place remaining ingredients inside the turkey, if no stuffing is present. Otherwise, place them around the base of the bird.
9.Place seasoned turkey in the bag.
10.Tightly twist and fasten the opening of the oven bag.
11.Place the turkey in a refrigerator for up to twelve hours.
12.Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.
13.Remove from refrigerator and place in over, directly.
14.Bake the turkey at 325 degrees for 20 minutes per pound.
Marinating a turkey is about more than just basting once the bird is in the oven. Allowing seasoning to rest on and in the top layers meat before baking will bring out subtle nuances of flavor for which traditionally baked turkey is best known. Once the bag is sealed, do not open it. This will protect the moisture that will self-inject into the turkey as it bakes.
A 10 lbs turkey will require at least 3.5 hours (200 minutes). Because an oven bag is utilized, no basting or maintenance is necessary during the cooking process. For crispy skin, remove the turkey 20 minutes early and open the oven bag. Set a timer and return the turkey to oven for the remainder of the cooking time. When the time goes off, remove the turkey and cover with foil until serving time.
Published on November 23, 2009 Last edited on November 23, 2009Herbs & Spices in this Recipe: