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The Guide to the Ultimate Turkey for Thanksgiving

slow roasted turkey sprinkles and sprouts

Photo: Claire/Sprinkles and Sprouts

The star of the show of Thanksgiving is always the turkey, unless you’re at a vegan meal. In order to ensure your star of the meal isn’t a total flop, here are some key instructions to follow to make the ultimate turkey. Check out some of these tips, try them out, and have the best Thanksgiving meal yet!

Know Your Turkey Size

First, it’s super important to know how many guests will attend your meal and whether or not you will want leftovers. This will also help you decide on how big of a turkey to purchase. So get your headcount and then go on the hunt for your perfectly sized bird.


Fresh vs. Frozen

Most people purchase their turkey frozen. If so, make sure you leave ample time for your bird to defrost depending on its weight and size. If you also want to marinate or brine your bird, leave time for this as well. We suggest for a larger turkey, letting it defrost 48 hours prior to cooking to allow a day for defrosting and a 24 hour time period to brine in the refrigerator. The best way to let your turkey defrost is in the kitchen sink submerged in cold water. Changing the water every few hours helps this process- if you plan ahead of time defrosting can be done in the refrigerator. (Tip: to estimate timing, give about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey.)

If you have the opportunity to purchase a fresh turkey, try and only do so a few days before your meal. You can then have 24-48 hours to brine and marinate your turkey before baking, smoking, or frying it.


To Stuff or Not to Stuff

Everyone has a preference for stuffing their turkey- some like their bird stuffed, while others prefer it on the side. Determining what kind of stuffing you are making can help decide when and how you stuff your bird. If going for a classic stuffing recipe, you can make this one day ahead of time prior to cooking your turkey. If opting for a healthier stuffing recipe, let’s say quinoa based, this can be made ahead of time, but likely won’t hold up if stuffing your bird with it.


The Best Pan to Bake your Bird

The best way to cook your turkey is in a roasting pan with a v-shaped rack, but if you don’t have this you can alternatively use a disposable pan with a makeshift rack using foil.


Cooking Methods

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and prepare your turkey on the rack. Add about 2 cups of liquid to the roasting pan- this will help keep your bird from drying out. Then put your turkey in the oven and lower the heat to 350 degrees. For timing, use the rule of 13 minutes per pound to help determine cooking time. Baste your turkey every 45 minutes to help keep the meat juicy.


Once done cooking, enter in a meat thermometer into the meat. It should read 165 degrees if it is cooked fully. For more instructions, check out this great guide to cooking a turkey from The Kitchn.


Presentation and Carving Your Bird

After your turkey has settled, decide on whether you want to carve your bird at the table or in the kitchen. This can help you decide if you want to make a grand entrance with your bird or serve a large platter of meat.


To carve the meat, we recommend and electric knife to help with the process. Carving a turkey is similar to a chicken. Place the bird bread side down and work on cutting the legs first. You can then move on to separating the wings. Then the breasts can be carved. You can save parts of the carcass to make stock or discard depending on your preference.


Know that you have all these tips, you are ready to make the best turkey for Thanksgiving! What are some of your pro-tips to making the ultimate bird?

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