Thanksgiving turkey. It’s probably the most stress-inducing part of this holiday meal. Mainly because you probably only cook a giant, unwieldy bird one time a year (twice if it’s essential to your Christmas dinner.) That’s not often enough to really inspire confidence in even the best cook. And because it’s usually the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, the threat of screwing up the turkey is the biggest worry for holiday chefs. Thankfully, there are tons of helpful turkey cooking hacks to help you manage your bird like a pro.
Whether you want to eliminate the need for basting or make your turkey cook faster to save prep time, there’s a helpful tip for you. These why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas will save you time and stress on the holiday, so you’ll have more time to spend chatting with family and friends and actually eating your delicious creation. With these Turkey cooking hacks, a restful holiday is possible even for the chef.
So if you’re ready to serve up the juiciest, most tender turkey ever, here are 13 hacks for cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. (Bonus tip: Don’t drop a frozen turkey into a deep fryer. It will create a fireball and pretty much ruin your Thanksgiving.)
1. Properly Thaw The Turkey
The good people at Buzzfeed remind you to properly thaw out your frozen turkey in the refrigerator to ensure your bird is ready for the oven on the big day. Oh, and it takes about four days to properly thaw a turkey, so plan ahead!
2. Two Birds With One Oven
Who says you have to feed your two-dozen guests from one giant bird? This genius tip from Greatist recommends you cook two smaller turkeys to make your cooking time more manageable (and feed more guests to boot.)
3. DIY Roasting Rack
If you’re in the middle of a cooking frenzy only to realize you don’t have a dang roasting rack, never fear. The Food Network can show you hot to make a roasting rack out of twisted aluminum foil, which will also make cleanup a lot easier.
4. Let It Rest
This excellent advice from Self reminds you to let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes after cooking before you carve and serve it up. This lets all the juices flow back into the bird, making for a more tender cut of meat. Use that time to grab a must-deserved glass of wine.
5. Two-Hour Turkey
Lifehacker offers up this recipe for a two-hour turkey, which will save you time and oven space on the big day itself.
6. Carve Correctly
What’s the point of a delicious turkey if you don’t carve it up correctly? Follow these step-by-step directions from Real Simple to carve up your bird like a pro.
7. Season The Turkey
Bland bird? Not in your kitchen! Follow the lead of Wonder How To’s food hacks and season your bird inside and out with a spice rub. Poultry pairs especially well with aromatic spices such as rosemary and fennel.
8. Consider Spatchcocking
Okay, so it sounds like something only seen on the Enterprise, but spatchcocking is really just a cool cooking technique. Follow this advice from Lifehack and remove the turkey’s backbone before cooking to make for a more even roast.
9. Use A Shallow Roasting Pan
Sometimes being shallow is a good thing. According to this article by Refinery29, using a roasting pan that is one one to two inches deep will keep the bird from steaming and help it cook more evenly.
10. Cook White Meat and Dark Meat Separately
According to Serious Eats, white turkey meat cooks up best at 145° F, while dark meat needs to be cooked at 165° F. The solution? Remove the white meat once it hits the right temperature, then let the legs and wings keep on cooking until they hit 165°F.
11. Slow Cook the Night Before
For a blessedly easy Thanksgiving morning, follow this advice from Huffington Post and put your turkey in a slow cooker the night before. It will be juicy and ready to serve by mealtime, with almost no effort on your part.
12. Don’t Baste
While some turkey enthusiasts swear by it, the New York Times’ turkey cooking guide recommends against basting, because opening the oven door that often lets heat escape. Try rubbing the bird with butter or olive oil before cooking to seal in moisture.