kawarthaCHOW – It’s Turkey Time

Cooking Instructor Elaine McCarthy gives us her great tips on cooking the bird and having a stress-free dinner

Follow Elaine’s simple rules to make Turkey Time stress-free!
Follow Elaine’s simple rules to make Turkey Time stress-free!

Being married to a chef and being a not bad cook myself, around this time of the year our phone starts to ring.

It starts off with a little chit chat and then, out of nowhere, our friends will ask “So I’m having Thanksgiving this year, what do you suggest?” or, my favourite, “I have this bird in my sink, what should I do?”

The turkey can be intimidating for some, and it can cause tears and panic in others. Grab a glass of wine and take a deep breath. This job is easy and incredibly rewarding.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or whether it’s your first time, there are a few simple rules that will make the dinner as easy as pumpkin pie.

  1. Make a menu and stick to it. Turkey is the only protein you need unless you have a vegetarian coming to dinner.
  2. Make-ahead vegetable casseroles will make the day of easy, and it will keep your oven free for the 5-8 hours you may need for the bird.
  3. Don’t stuff the bird. I know your grandma did, but it can be dangerous from a food safety standpoint and it will increase your cooking time by about 2 hours.
  4. Put the effort in and make your own cranberry sauce and gravy, but buy a stuffing mix. I personally like the PC Cranberry and Sage — I use it every year and I don’t care who knows.
  5. Either get a fresh turkey or make sure the turkey you have is thawed properly. That doesn’t mean thawing on the counter for 24 hours; it means thawing in the fridge and it’ll take a week.
  6. If you’re really busy and the task seems too hard, when your guests ask what they can bring, get them to bring dessert, bread rolls or a veggie side dish. Don’t be a hero — it’s you that ends up with the dishes and swigging on the homemade wine.
  7. Timing — figure out how long the turkey will take to roast at 325 degrees F., at approximately 15-20 minutes per pound. This is just an estimate; be sure to use a meat thermometer to get a perfect doneness. Remove the turkey when the thermometer reads 180 degrees F. in the thickest part of the thigh meat.

    Here’s an approximate turkey cooking time guide for roasting at 325 degrees F:

    Weight Time
    8 to 12 lbs 2-3/4 to 3 hrs
    12 to 14 lbs 3 to 3-3/4 hrs
    14 to 18 lbs 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hrs
    18 to 20 lbs 4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hrs
    20 to 24 lbs 4-1/2 to 5 hrs

  8. A properly prepped turkey will go a long way to ensure a successful roasting, and a very attractive bird. These three steps are fast and easy, but make a huge difference:
    1. Pull the wing tips forward and tuck them under the breasts so they don’t burn. This also keeps the turkey sitting nice and straight.
    2. After seasoning, tie the legs together with kitchen string or dental floss (plain, not minty fresh). This important step will ensure even cooking, and a beautifully shaped turkey.
    3. Loosely cover the breasts with a piece of foil. This will help keep the turkey moist, and prevent the breasts from getting too brown. Remove the foil for the last hour of roasting to brown the skin.

Cook (Not Overcook) Low and Slow

Leave the turkey out for one hour before roasting to take the chill off. Coarsely cut a couple of carrots, celery, and a couple of onions into large chunks. Place on the bottom of your roasting pan. Place the turkey breast-side-up on top of the vegetables.

Add about a half-inch of liquid (water or stock) or — in my case — white wine to the roasting pan. This will keep the oven moist and the turkey juicy. This aromatic liquid can be used to baste the turkey while it cooks (there is a debate whether basting does anything, but it’s part of the tradition). Also, the pan drippings will be even more flavorful for when you make gravy.

If you decide not to stuff it, here’s a tip: generously season the cavity of the bird with citrus, lemon or orange, and (like our friends Simon and Garfunkel said) “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme”.

Let it Rest! A Rested Turkey is a Delicious Turkey this is a MUST!!!

When you remove the turkey from the oven, cover it very loosely with foil, and go about getting your side dishes to the table. Don’t worry, it won’t get cold; a covered 20-lb turkey will stay hot for over 40 minutes, so don’t rush it. Letting it rest not only gives you time to finish the gravy and the rest of the meal, but also allows the turkey to relax and the juices to flow.

Congratulations! It’s time to give thanks, and enjoy!

Previous articlePatch Cup embodies spirit and love for the game
Next articleHave You Seen DVD Collection
Elaine McCarthy
Elaine McCarthy is the Co-ordinator of the PC Cooking School, located upstairs at the Great Canadian Superstore at Lansdowne Place in Peterborough. Elaine has been cooking professionally for over 20 years and running the cooking school for five years. A mother of two girls, she has a passion for healthy eating and for teaching children about the importance of the food that we consume. Be sure to check our column about the PC Cooking School and facility rental. You can follow Elaine on Twitter at @PlanxtyIrwin.