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Cooking the perfect turkey

Everyone likes to talk turkey at Christmas. Grandma swears by putting oil on her bird before cooking it and mom always tents her bird to keep in the moisture.

If you are new to cooking a turkey all the advice can be disconcerting. Here are ten tips for cooking the perfect bird gleaned from the internet and from a quick call to mom.

1. Don’t drink and roast your turkey. If your family likes to drink at Christmas you might want to choose a designated chef for the event, one who won’t forget to turn the oven from broil to 325F (162C) when the oven is heated and ready to cook the bird, and one who won’t be too trashed to hear the timer go off after several hours of cooking time.

2. Don’t forget to thaw the bird. If you think it’s all right to leave the bird soaking overnight in a sink of water, perhaps rethink it. There’s a greater risk that the turkey could have bacteria — and the last thing anyone wants is to end up sick. If using a frozen turkey, make sure you thaw it in its original plastic wrapper in the fridge. Allow for five hours per pound, so a 20lb bird could take as much as four days in the fridge.

3. Some chefs recommend soaking the turkey in brine ahead of time to add flavour and moisture. Use two gallons of water, one cup of salt, half a cup or more of sweetener, and any spices and herbs that you would like to add. To make the brine dissolve the sugar and salt in the water, and then ice it. When the brine is ice cold, you add the turkey, and let it sit in the brine for at least six hours, and up to 24 hours. When you take the turkey out of the brine, rinse it very well to avoid an overly salty gobbler.

4. Season it, but don’t overdo it. Lots of preparation has to go into getting the turkey ready for the feast, including some unappealing parts like removing the giblets and neck. You also have to rinse and wipe the cavity. It’s recommended to season the bird with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stuff it lightly and use skewers to fasten skin over the cavity.

5. One of the problems with flavouring your bird is that if you place the salt, pepper and other seasonings on the outer skin, the taste does not get to the meat of the bird. You can pull the skin away from the turkey, but leave it attached at the ends. Season your (clean) hand with spices and butter and slip it between the skin and the bird rubbing in the spices and butter then let the skin fall back into place.

6. One of the most common challenges when cooking a turkey is keeping it moist. Melt half a pound of butter and soak a cheese cloth in it. Place the cheese cloth over the turkey while it cooks. It should keep the bird moist.

7. Roast it to perfection by brushing the turkey periodically with melted butter or oil. You can let your turkey brown for a half an hour to an hour or until you are happy with the level of brownness. Cooks differ a bit on what to do with the foil. Some suggest you place the tinfoil tightly over the bird to stop it browning further, while others make the foil into a little tent over the turkey to stop the moisture evaporating from the meat. It’s your call.

8. Roast in 325F (162C) oven for about 20 minutes per pound or until juices run clear when turkey is pierced. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of thigh and make sure it registers 180F (82C) for a stuffed turkey or 170F (76C) for an unstuffed turkey. Remove tent for last hour of roasting so the skin can properly brown.

9. One secret to the perfect turkey is to cook it upside down to allow the juices from the fatty part of the bird to baste the breast during the cooking process. This does not produce a very pretty bird at all, but it tastes great as long as you don’t mind an ugly turkey.

10. Remember to let the bird rest. When the turkey is done, transfer it to a warm place, tent with foil and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. This allows time for juices at the surface of the bird to distribute evenly throughout the meat.

Do you want to cook the perfect turkey?: Follow our tips today

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Published December 21, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated December 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm)

Cooking the perfect turkey

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