Turkey Tips for Thanksgiving Day

By on November 16, 2012

Tom Turkey struts his Stuff

The Iconic American Feast has caused more happiness and more grief than any other celebration on our collective calendars.

Why?  No one knows exactly what to do with the turkey.  So here are some tips I’ve collected and used,  some shibboleths I hope to knock down for good, and some new age answers which may or may not work.

First off, if your grocery store offers a free turkey if only you buy X dollars worth of groceries, just remember that bird has probably been languishing in the grocer’s freezer for a year.  It’s the grocer’s version of a close-out.

The one time I did this (always being careful with money you see), when we sliced into that gorgeous bronzed bird the aroma which wafted upwards was truly disgusting.  My husband took it back to the store on the silver platter.  The guys in the store thought he was bringing dinner.  No, he just wanted a fresh turkey. And I wanted my platter back.  That year the celebratory feast was delayed about 4 hours while we cooked the fresh bird.

So, that said, I’d advise you to buy the best bird you can find, fresh or frozen.  I’ll order a fresh bird from Eden Marketplace in South Orange.  It will cost me about $2.49 per pound, but it’s an all natural bird from nearby Pennsylvania, with no artificial anything and 22% more white meat than a supermarket bird.  Worth every penny.

If somebody is bringing you a wild turkey for thanksgiving, check out www.Hunter/Fisher/Gardener/Cook for instructions.

Look at it this way, if you consider that you must buy about a pound of meat per person, you can’t really complain about the cost.  In case you want to do a cost benefit analysis, just think of the cost of a decent prime rib. Yikes.

I’ve made Eric Ripert’s turkey two ways every year since the NYTimes challenged him to think of a better way to cook and serve this puzzling item.  He suggests cutting breast away and roasting it, but cooking dark meat in a bed of red wine with onions, carrot, celery and garlic.

Why is it the French are always right?  This fabulous mixture is then minced and rolled into cabbage rolls, which are dipped in butter and cooked in the oven.

Although this recipe takes two days to do, we can’t have it any other way.

Eric Ripert Cooks Turkey Two Ways

Eric Ripert’s Turkey Two Ways.  See NYTimes HERE: http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/535/ericripertsturkeytwoways.html

For conventional turkey roasting, here’s the pared down version that works well and is just as good as the bird you start with.

  1. Thaw a bird 1 week in the refrigerator, or 20 minutes per pound in the kitchen sink with hot water running over it.
  2. Remove giblets and save them for gravy by boiling gently in a medium saucepan of water for about 30 minutes.  Then adjust seasonings, fine chop the meat and set it aside.
  3. Dry the turkey and season with sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper.  Baste it generously with melted butter.
  4. Add stuffing of your choice OR simply whack up a couple onions and apples or lemons and stuff them into the bird.
  5. Heat the oven to 450° F. (Check your oven’s accuracy by using an oven thermometer). Place the bird, breast UP, on a rack in a sturdy roaster.  Put oven rack on the lowest level and cook bird in the hot oven 20 minutes, then turn down heat to 350°F.
  6. Pour 1 quart chicken broth in the bottom of the roaster. Roast the turkey about 13 minutes per pound. Baste the bird with broth about every 45 minutes using a bulb baster to suck up the lovely juices.
  7. Use an instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh to check for doneness.  Bird is done when the thermometer reads 155°F.  It will continue to cook about 20 minutes after you remove it from the oven.
  8. Remove bird to a cutting board or serving platter.  Carve at the table or in the kitchen.  Your choice.
  9. Make gravy using pan juices + giblets and broth.  First melt equal parts butter and flour in a pan (say about ½ cup each).  Cook and stir over medium high heat to make a golden roux, then add about 3 cups liquids and cook and stir until thick.  Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

What You Did Not See in this year’s advice.  No brining.  As my friend, Rick Rodgers says,  if you want a brined bird just buy a kosher bird.  Otherwise, you’re likely to get a bird so salty you can’t stand it and the gravy will be ruined. Plus you’ll have the hassle of finding a place to safely keep a raw bird floating in brine that’s also cool. Rick is author of Thanksgiving 101 and has cooked more turkeys than anyone I know.http://rickrodgers.com/rick_rodgers/rr/thanksgiving/

Rick Rodgers, author of thanksgiving 101 knows everything about cooking turkeys.



Got A Small Party for four or five:  Just buy a turkey breast and roast that. Delicious and you aren’t saddled with leftovers until the millennium.

Should I spring for an organic bird? If you can find one, I’d say yes, but otherwise, just shop at a good store (like Eden Marketplace or Whole Foods) and choose their “all natural,” “local,” and fresh bird.  Keep it in your refrigerator a day or so and you’re on your way to a divine dinner.  Sometimes, the name “organic” is not as important as reading the fine print on the label.  All vegetable feed, no added hormones or antibiotics.

How early should I get the bird?  Depends on your storage capacities at home.  But do order early.  When I called Eden today (it’s Friday and Thanksgiving is next Thursday) they were already sold out of the 10-12 pounders.  So order and ask the butcher to hold it for you until the day before if you’re short of refrigerator space.

Happy thanksgiving from all of us at Everybody Eats News.

How to Attack a Thanksgiving Turkey? Ask any girl at your table.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”

One Comment