I know a lot of people's favorite parts of the Thanksgiving dinner are the stuffing and mashed potatoes, but my favorite part is the turkey. I love everything about it: the flavor of the white meat, the flavor of the dark meat, the crispy skin, how it's delicious regardless of being hot or cold, and the fact that there are so many different ways you can eat the leftovers (sandwiches for the win, though). And because I love the turkey so much, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen in the days leading up to Thanksgiving because I like to watch stepdad prepare it. We talk about his first time cooking a Thanksgiving turkey as he's chopping, and I'm amazed at how much time, effort and thought goes into planning the entire Thanksgiving meal. When it's time for all of us to go around the table and say the three things we're thankful for, the first thing I always say I'm thankful for is the turkey that he worked so hard to make for our family.
Romper has partnered with Minute Maid to bring those of you who are cooking a turkey for the first time some tips and tricks that might help along the way. Or maybe you’ve already cooked a turkey or two and you didn’t feel they were as much of a success as you would have liked! Either way, we’re hoping the below helps you achieve a wonderful holiday meal and they help you start feeling the holiday spirit.
1. When figuring out what size turkey to buy, consider how many people you're having over and if you want leftovers.
When you're buying your turkey, think about how many guests you'll be having over for dinner, and whether or not you'll want to enjoy leftovers in the coming days. Generally speaking, one pound of turkey accounts for one person's serving, so if you're having 12 people over, you'll need a 12 pound turkey. But if you want a significant amount of leftovers, go for a bird where each person's serving is 1.5 pounds of turkey.
2. For extra crispy skin, leave an uncooked and uncovered bird overnight in the refrigerator.
3. If you need a faster way to thaw your turkey, use the "cold water method."
If you can't thaw the turkey in the refrigerator (maybe you don't have enough space in there, or maybe you just don't have as much time as you'd like), try this instead: keep the bird in its original wrapping and let it sit in a big container that's filled with cold tap water. Change the water every 20 to 30 minutes, or whenever the water's temperature gets between 40 and 45 degrees fahrenheit. You'll know you're done thawing when a thermometer says that every part of the bird is about 40 to 45 degrees fahrenheit.
4. To help your turkey taste juicy and sweet, use orange juice in your brine!
When you do this, the meat absorbs the juice in the brine. Then, when the bird is cooking, the juice is released and ensures it stays moist in the oven. Here's a great recipe to follow!
5. The more moisture there is on the turkey's skin, the more difficult it is for the skin to get crispy in the oven. So after you've finished brining, use paper towels to dry it before you cook it.
Go ahead, show that turkey a little TLC!
6. To help it cook evenly, bring the turkey to room temperature by letting it rest for about an hour before putting it in the oven.
It's the easiest thing you can do to make sure everyone gets a delicious slice.
7. If you don't have a rack, slice up some onions and other vegetables, put them on the bottom of the pan, and then lay the turkey on top of everything.
A roasting rack prevents a turkey from sticking to the pan so they're helpful to have, but you certainly don't need one. And even if you do have a roasting rack, some people forgo them for this technique because they say it enhances the turkey's flavor. Bonus tip: to avoid getting teary-eyed while chopping the onions, put them in the freezer for 15 minutes before you start.
8. Once the turkey is out of the oven, wait between 30 minutes and 2 hours before serving it to your guests.
This helps the turkey stay juicy! If you're nervous about making your guests wait to eat, have some tiny things (like cheese and crackers and grapes) around that everyone can munch on while they mingle.
9. Use the juices in the pan to make a gravy.
Many people consider gravy to be one of the stars of Thanksgiving dinner, and it's usually pretty simple to make, too!
10. To make carving easier, cut the breasts and legs first, and then go from there.
Also, if the idea of carving the turkey in front of everyone at the table gives you stage fright, you can do it privately in the kitchen after you've proudly shown it off to your guests.
This post is sponsored by Minute Maid.
Images: Offset (5), Stocksy (5)