Offered To Host Thanksgiving Dinner: How Do I Cook A Turkey?

Lounge By margaretb Updated 25 Dec 2009 , 5:53pm by margaretb

margaretb Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 4:39pm
post #1 of 33

The only other time I cooked a turkey, I bought a cook from frozen one, dumped it out of the package into my mom's roaster oven (those things that are like a rectangle slow cooker but you can set the temp), and when my mom came she took it out and carved it up. I could probably do that again, but I was thinking of stepping it up a notch here. I can borrow my mom's roaster oven again, but what do I do with a turkey if I, say, bought the kind you thaw out first.

I do know that there will be some kind of bag of nasties inside and I will have to steel myself to reach in and take it out. Ewwww. (I know this because back in my university days, I decided to roast a chicken. Brought it home from the store and put it in the roasting pan. Went to do something and came back to find my baba washing the chicken and taking something out of the inside -- good thing she didn't trust my cooking!).

32 replies
TexasSugar Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 4:49pm
post #2 of 33

The only turkey I have around Thanksgiving is a Greenburg Smoked Turkey. HeHe. We have duck for thanksgiving (and Christmas) dinner in our family.

Hopefully there are some turkey cooks that can give you all the information you need. You may want to try searching some sites for the dos and don'ts with turkeys.

Magnum Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 4:54pm
post #3 of 33

If you type in 'How to cook a turkey' on youtube (man i love youtube icon_biggrin.gif ), you get a whole load of clips come up. Hope you find a good clip

michellenj Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 5:21pm
post #4 of 33

Turkey is super easy. Just make sure that you start thawing it out plenty early, because it takes a few days. You can just use tongs to take out the bag of yukky stuff.

I like to put carrot, celery, onion, an apple, and a handful of fresh herbs in the cavity of my turkey, then rub softened butter all over the bird, salt and pepper it, and cook it for howerver long the package says per pound. Once you take it out of the oven, let it sit for 30 minutes to rest, then carve it. Cooks Illustrated says to cook the bird breast side down for the first hour, then use wads of paper towels and turn the bird over for the resto f the baking time, supposedly the juices will run into the breast while it's cooking upside down.

The turkey is my easy part of Thanksgiving!

Kiddiekakes Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 5:52pm
post #5 of 33

Ahhh Ba-Ba's ...bless their Heart!! I had a BaBa also....LOL...Thaw the turkey..put it in a roaster..season it...put a little water in the bottom of the pan...for steam...cook 30 minutes for every pound at 350 degrees.So if you have a 10 pound turkey it will take 4-5 hours.Use a meat thermometer to check doneness!

dinas27 Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 6:53pm
post #6 of 33
Originally Posted by Kiddiekakes

Ahhh Ba-Ba's ...bless their Heart!! I had a BaBa also....LOL...Thaw the turkey..put it in a roaster..season it...put a little water in the bottom of the pan...for steam...cook 30 minutes for every pound at 350 degrees.So if you have a 10 pound turkey it will take 4-5 hours.Use a meat thermometer to check doneness!

yeh for babas and babkas! I grew up in a VERY ukrainian area of saskatchewan, 1/2 uk myself icon_lol.gif

Hmmmmmmmmmmm turkey. Turkey is one of the easiest things to cook - my husband hated turkey though until he ate my families turkey - but he always had dry turkey before that.

1. defrost completely and wash
2. Make dressing. Saute onions and celery in lots of butter (sometimes I also add grated carrot). Break up bread, add salt, pepper, sage and poultry seasoning and sauted veggies. Crack one or two eggs and whisk before adding to bowl. Add enough cream to make moist (depending on how dry bread is and how much butter you used.
3. Get your pan ready - rip off a large piece of aluminum foil, overlapping the sides enough so you can wrap the turkey. Stuff turkey and place in pan, salt and pepper. Wrap turkey with the foil complety place an extra piece over the top so that no steam can escape.
4. Add boiling water to the pan and cook checking to make sure there is enough water for your gravy. Do not open the foil and peek during cooking That lets all the steam out. My mom taught me 1 hour plus 1/2 hour for each pound, this results in very well done turkey falling off the bone.
5. In the last half hour take turkey out and drain juices for gravy. If you want your turkey a little more brown place back in oven for a few minutes, although this is usually not necessary.

Mike1394 Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 10:26pm
post #7 of 33

A turkey is actually very easy to cook. Shove it in a 350 oven come back a few hrs, and eat.

icon_biggrin.gif A lil simplified, but you'll see not by much. First cook the stuffung outside the bird. Stuff the bird with sage, parsely, onino, a lil garlic, and a quartered orange. All of these flavors will permeate throughout the bird.

Set the oven to 350, and put a alum foil tent over the bird. You want breast side up. This will allow the bird to cook w/o drying out.

Now if you really want to impress. Just above the wing, and leg loosen the skin up until you reach middle of the breast bone. Make a butter with the above mentioned herbs, and spices. Slather it on the meat cove back up with the skin. icon_biggrin.gif


indydebi Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 10:58pm
post #8 of 33

I buy the kind with the little red button that pops up to let me know when it's done. Luv that little sucker!

thecakebox Posted 2 Oct 2008 , 11:09pm
post #9 of 33

The easiest way is to buy the oven bags by reynolds, they make a turkey size. No basting required and the turkey always comes out moist, have fun and remember, it takes way longer to thaw than you think (coming from 3 years in a row of having the turkey still partially frozen-hehe)

dldbrou Posted 3 Oct 2008 , 1:44am
post #10 of 33

First, I inject it with Cajun Butter and then hand it to my dh to fry. Then I go into the kitchen and cook everything else.

Deb_ Posted 3 Oct 2008 , 2:32am
post #11 of 33

The secret to a very moist turkey is "Brine". Google Brine, there will be dozens of recipes.

24hrs before roasting I make my Brine(marinade) I usually cook a 25 to 30lb bird so the Brine recipe I use is (all measurements are approx., I measure nothing, sorry)
2cups of kosher salt
15 to 20 whole peppercorns
4 to 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup honey
3 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
1TBS celery seed
Place in a lg. saucepan with enough water to fill the pan 3/4 and bring to a slow boil, simmer for approx 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and pour into a pan that is large enough to fully submerge your turkey(large stockpot) Add ice to the Brine mixture to cool it down completely. The Brine should be cold before you submerge the turkey. Place the thawed and washed turkey in the Brine(it should be completely submerged) Place in the fridge for at least 24 hrs.

When you are ready to roast the bird, remove from the brine and discard.
Rinse the bird and pat dry, your turkey is now "seasoned" from the inside out. I also stuff the turkey with all fresh herbs (sage,parsley,thyme,rosemary), celery and carrots.

Tie the legs together and fold the wings underneath. Smear butter all over the turkey and place in a foil lined "Heavy gauge" roast pan on a rack. (the rack will ensure a browned all around turkey) I roast on 450degrees for the first 30 min.(this seals in all the juices), turn the oven down to 325 to 350 and roast 25 to 30 minutes per lb. Baste once an hr. When the turkey is browned to your liking cover loosely with alum. foil.

If you soak your turkey in any kind of brine it is pretty much guaranteed that you will have a very moist and tender meat. Most famous chefs will recommend this. I have never added water to my roasting pan and I always have enough "turkey juice" to make about a 1/2gallon of gravy. It will be the tastiest turkey meat you've ever eaten. icon_smile.gif

michellenj Posted 3 Oct 2008 , 3:36pm
post #12 of 33

The "Good Eats" brining recipe is a good on on the Food Network. I have always heard that you should not cook the stuffing inside the bird b/c it is in the "danger zone" too long and bacteria can breed.

Deb_ Posted 3 Oct 2008 , 9:15pm
post #13 of 33
Originally Posted by michellenj

The "Good Eats" brining recipe is a good on on the Food Network. I have always heard that you should not cook the stuffing inside the bird b/c it is in the "danger zone" too long and bacteria can breed.

Michelle you're right about the stuffing inside the turkey, I always do mine separately. However, my Mom used to put the stuffing in the turkey at night before she went to bed, put the bird in the fridge and than get up at 6 and put it in the oven icon_surprised.gificon_eek.gif! We all survived and nobody ever got sick, but when I hear all the warnings about it, I always think wow we were lucky I guess.

michellenj Posted 3 Oct 2008 , 9:29pm
post #14 of 33

My grandma had some crazy recipe that was something like putting the turkey in the oven at 500 degrees for an hour, let it cook, then turn off the oven and leave it overnight in the oven, wrapped in foil. I would have to think that was unsafe, too. It's no wonder I had an upset stomach all the time.

Amia Posted 5 Oct 2008 , 4:25am
post #15 of 33
Originally Posted by dldbrou

First, I inject it with Cajun Butter and then hand it to my dh to fry. Then I go into the kitchen and cook everything else.

Oh yeah, cajun fried turkey is the only way to go! My grandpa spends days frying up turkeys for family friends (and our Priest). My grandma finally quit baking an extra turkey too, because no one would eat it. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

margaretb Posted 6 Oct 2008 , 7:26pm
post #16 of 33

Thank you for all the info! I'm feeling a little bolder. I didn't plan on cooking the stuffing in the turkey, but it never crossed my mind to put other stuff in there just for flavour. And I LOVE the tip about using tongs to get the bag out.

I had read something about cooking a turkey, but I can't find it now. But it starts something like, "There's nothing sadder than going to the store the day before Thanksgiving and seeing all the new brides buying the frozen turkeys."

Better make a list now!


margaretb Posted 7 Oct 2008 , 10:50pm
post #17 of 33

Okay, I bought a 22 pound turkey. Sure hope a lot of people show up for supper. Anyway, when do I start thawing it out? 3 days before (for some reason that is sticking in my head)? I sure stood at the freezer case a long time looking at the butterball "DO NOT THAW" turkeys, but I'm being brave. But I think mine has the pop up when it's done button, woo hoo.

Hee hee, my SIL who told me about the cook from frozen turkeys made thanksgiving dinner several years ago. We showed up, it was all ready, except... she had miscalculated the time, and the turkey needed another 2 or 3 hours to cook. So we had side dishes, movie time, turkey. It was fun.

Deb_ Posted 8 Oct 2008 , 2:30am
post #18 of 33

It takes 24 hrs for every 4 to 5lbs of frozen turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. This is the safest way to thaw it, put it in a pan or bowl so you don't end up with water on all your other food.

Take it out of the freezer and place it in the fridge on Saturday, this will ensure that you have a thawed bird by Wednesday. Just leave it in the fridge until your ready to prepare it.

Good luck!

shelbur10 Posted 8 Oct 2008 , 2:54am
post #19 of 33

In addition to all the great tips you've gotten here, spend a lot of time with Food Network the week or so before will learn everything you need to know!

margaretb Posted 8 Oct 2008 , 7:23am
post #20 of 33

Oh my helpful but silly American friends -- our Thanksgiving is THIS weekend! I am cooking the turkey this Sunday. I will put it in the fridge first thing tomorrow morning! Good thing I asked!

dinas27 Posted 8 Oct 2008 , 12:46pm
post #21 of 33

oh Margaret you're Canadian too! Happy turkey eating this weekend! What province/city are you in?

margaretb Posted 8 Oct 2008 , 3:32pm
post #22 of 33

I'm from northeastern Alberta -- about 250 km from Edmonton.

Deb_ Posted 10 Oct 2008 , 11:49pm
post #23 of 33

Ooops............I didn't know you were Canadian........sorry icon_redface.gif Happy Thanksgiving? Is that what it's called in Canada?

My niece lives in Scotland, married a Scot.....they obviously don't celebrate Thanksgiving, but every year since she's lived there she invites all of their friends to an "American Thanksgiving" since she misses home so much. Her friends love it, and it's an excuse to eat a HUGE turkey dinner on what would normally be just another Thursday in November for them.

Good luck with your dinner!

margaretb Posted 12 Oct 2008 , 3:34pm
post #24 of 33

Ack! I put the turkey in the fridge on Thursday (took it out of the freezer in the morning, but then kind of forgot to take it downstairs for a couple hours), and it was still a little frozen this morning! It took me about 20 minutes to get the stupid plastic leg holder together off and pull out the giblets and the turkey neck. And what the heck?!? The turkey neck is wider at one end than the other, so why donât they put the NARROW end in first so you can get a grip on the wide end? Over ten of those 20 minutes was just trying to get the stupid neck out. At least all the hot water I ran into the thing trying to free the neck (and I was THIS CLOSE to just leaving the neck in) must have thawed it out the rest of the way. AND Iâve been looking at cooking times, and as far as I can see, it is either 4 ½ hours for this bird (the package it was in didnât even give a time for a turkey this size â it stopped at 20 pounds, and this one is just over 23), OR ELEVEN HOURS!!!! Well, it is certainly not going to be eleven hours. After a panicky phone call to my mom, I am cranking the temperature up a bit for the next couple hours and then I will turn it back to 325 and hope it is done by 4 or 5. WHAT WAS I THINKING â COOK FROM FROZEN, COOK FROM FROZEN, COOK FROM FROZEN!

Now I just have to clean the entire rest of my house (think I may end up doing the "close the bedroom door" method). AHHHHHHH!

margaretb Posted 13 Oct 2008 , 6:26am
post #25 of 33

Success! I turned the roaster on 375 at 9 am, turned it back down to 325 just before 11, and then just before 4 pm checked the turkey and the red temperature thing had popped out. Yay! AND they said it tasted good (not just to me -- I heard some people saying it to each other). I stuffed the bird with an apple, some celery and some onion, and I used poultry spice, parsley and sage in it too. I poured melted butter on the outside (I was SO frustrated by the time I was getting it in the roaster, I didn't have the patience to rub it on slowly) and sprinkled some salt and pepper on it, and I saw my brother eat a piece of the skin later, so that was okay. I cooked it in my moms roaster oven thing wrapped in aluminum foil. I poured not quite 3 cups of water in before I turned it on, and ended up with not quite 2 cups of juice for gravy. I fried up some mushrooms in lots of butter and just added flour and the juice for the gravy. So I'm pretty proud of myself. The only bad part was that my husband told his family supper would be between 4 and 5 (?!?!? -- even as I was telling him there was no way it would be ready at 4), so they started showing up about 3:30, when I was in the shower and hadn't even started on the food (the house got mainly cleaned, and even the kids were helping out, but we didn't finish until after 3). I told my family between 5 and 6, and said lets face it, that means six. Turned out we were ready to eat just after 5:30.

So thank you everyone for your advice. I really appreciate it. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

michellenj Posted 13 Oct 2008 , 3:42pm
post #26 of 33

I'm glad it turned out well for you.

dinas27 Posted 15 Oct 2008 , 1:22pm
post #27 of 33

Sounds like you pulled it off!

I had a lonely thanksgiving this year - just my husband and I, so I just did a turkey breast. I'm not really a white meat person but I tried the brining and then stuck it in the rotisserie. It was fabulous! And then I made homemade pidishke (like a perogy but with bread dough) that melts in your mouth (especially slathered with whipping cream and dill), parm cauliflower and pumpkin cheesecake.

Thanks to those who recommended the brine!

maryjsgirl Posted 17 Oct 2008 , 1:17am
post #28 of 33

I know it's too late for the Canadian Thanksgiving, but I thought I would ad my little two cents for those of us that will be cooking in a few weeks.

I always brine my turkeys overnight. I sub the sugar for some maple sugar, because I do a maple and bacon roasted turkey every year.

I make a maple syrup and butter smear for the turkey by just adding the syrup to room temp butter and mixing. I place the smear under the skin of the turkey and then on top of the turkey. Really massage it in. Then I cut up slices of raw bacon and place them under the skin also.

Place in an oven bag and cook according to directions.

Some people don't like using the bags, because the turkey doesn't brown for a pretty presentation. Due to the high sugar content of the syrup I have had no issues with the turkey turning a beautiful mahogany.

kbgieger Posted 17 Oct 2008 , 1:49am
post #29 of 33

I will also vouch for the brining. I've used the Good Eats brine mentioned above on multiple occasions. Good stuff!

The single biggest tip I would give is invest in a good probe thermometer. It's the kind where you stick the probe into the meat before cooking; the display stays outside the oven and you set the alarm for the desired temperature. This one kitchen gadget has prevented me from overcooking so many roasts, chickens, etc. that we actually bought a second one just in case we need it. (My DH also uses it when he grills!)


mom2leelee Posted 17 Oct 2008 , 3:37am
post #30 of 33

I always make a herbed butter and rub under the skin of my turkey, melt the remaining and pour over the turkey and add sea salt. Also instead of putting it on a roasting rack I put the turkey on big chunks of potato, onion and carrots. Just another layer of flavor for the gravy.

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