Turkey fear days are over! This is the year to surprise the family when having them for dinner. Here I will tell you all you need to know about how to prepare the main ingredient in this traditional and emotional celebration.
Two or three days before Thanksgiving, at the supermarket, select the turkey that will make you look like a star in the kitchen.
How many pounds? How long cooking? Covered or uncovered? At what temperature? What about seasoning?... I am going to tell you everything here, so it won't bite you anymore!!!
How many pounds must the turkey weight?
- 6 pounds = 4 persons
- 8 pounds = 6 persons
- 10 pounds = 8 persons
- 15 pounds = 10 persons
- 20 pounds = 12 – 15 persons
How long should it be in the oven?
The turkey should be cooked for 15 minutes per pound. However, depending on the size it could take a little longer or a little less time. That is why you should consider the following methods that will let you know when your turkey is completely cooked:
- When inserting something sharp (may be a knife) between the breast and the thigh, if the liquid that comes out looks clear instead of pink, it means that it is ready.
- Inserting a thermometer in the same area. A $10-$15 thermometer is the best option, specially the digital ones, which are accurate and do not need to be calibrated. You can find them at the supermarket or at any department store. The thing is that if you take out the turkey from the oven when it reaches 165ºF (74ºC), the heat inside will continue cooking it and the meat will end up dry. So when it reaches 155º-160F, take it out of the oven and let it rest about for 20 minutes before cutting. The heat inside will continue cooking it while preserving all its juices.
- There are some turkeys that come with an integrated meterinserted in the breast (usually white or yellow). This meter will stick out when cooking time is up, but generally the turkey ends up overcooked.
- Additionally you will notice that the legs easily separate from the body... they separate and slightly move. In other words, they won't be as stiff as they were when raw
At what temperature to cook the turkey... covered or uncovered... tied or loose?
I prefer to cook it at 325º-350ºF. The correct way to cook it is uncovered and breast facing up all the time. Place it in a baking dish, on top of the grill that comes with the container to keep the turkey from making contact with the juices/water it releases. Just once in a while bathe it with its own juices to keep it acquiring more flavor. Also, whole garlic cloves, large pieces of chopped red onions can be added to give more taste to the turkey while it is in the oven... even some fresh rosemary or thyme. And keep it string-tight as it comes when you buy it at the supermarket.
Let's talk about seasoning the turkey!
It is important to season it between 24 to 36 hours prior to cooking.
There are different techniques to give more flavor to the turkey... What you are going to decide is what ingredients to use, among which I shall recommend:
- You can add some acid ingredients like oranges, sour oranges or limes... some will add apple vinegar, sauterne wine and even soy sauce. Honestly, I do not like to use any acids for the marinate, but my Cuban and American friends love it! It is only a matter of taste; however, if I wanted to add something in this category I prefer to get it drunk with black beer.
- You must use some kind of oil: I usually use olive oil, but you can also use sunflower oil or canola oil.
- The real flavor will be given with some of these options:
Fresh garlic, Oregano, Marjoram, Annato, sweet pepper, red or black pepper, Coriander, Thyme, Sage, Cummin, Rosemary and any seasoning with Culantro and Annato.
- The other option that you have (which does not fall under any marinate, since does not include oils or acids) is what is known in English as "rub", which is a powder seasoning. You can make it with different kinds of chiles, spices and dry condiments. Or prepare a marinate with aji panca or chile guajillo, ancho y pasilla, from chile morita... or even with Caribbean seasoning and a stuffing of mofongo of yucca... Uffff... I am already hungry!!!
- And if by now you are asking yourself about the stuffing, the wine, the side dishes and the desserts, they will get to you in TURKEY 102... He, he, he!
Big hug... and enjoy it. Have in mind that the main thing is to share with family and friends during the holidays and always be grateful for what you had, have and will have!
Thank you for reading me and for following me... BON APPETIT!