Dry-Brined Spiced Citrus TurkeyThe first few times you cook a Thanksgiving turkey can be a series of trial and error. At our home, there was one year the oven temperature reading was too low, so the turkey took hours to cook. We served dinner at 9 pm at night!
Oddly enough, the following year — different oven — we cooked the turkey too high and it was done before the sides were made.
This year however, you can avoid the pitfalls of preparing a Thanksgiving turkey. From buying and brining to cooking and carving, we’re dishing on everything you need for the best turkey yet.
1. Choosing the right bird. Choose the right turkey for your feast (and your fridge). To ensure you get just what you want, reserve your turkey early — size, type and availability vary by location.
Organic turkeys. Our feast favorite! These are only fed organic feed (that means no GMOs, among other things) and raised on organic pastures with outdoor access. 10-20+ pounds.
Classic turkeys. These are a trifecta of flavor, quality and value. 8-30 pounds.
Heritage turkeys. Rich, succulent old-world breeds, these are cherished for flavor. Up to 22 pounds.
Heirloom turkeys. Craving a bird with robust flavor and higher percentage of dark meat? These are for you. Up to 28 pounds.
Kosher turkeys. Ours have two kosher certifications: Rabbi Babad and the Orthodox Union. 10-20+ pounds.
Honey and Rosemary Brined Turkey with Herb Riesling Gravy2. Meat of the meat. Whether frozen or fresh, all our turkeys are required to meet our strict quality standards including:
5-Step® Animal Welfare rated
No animal by-products in their feed
No added solutions or injections *
No added growth hormones **
* Except for pure sea salt solutions for our turkeys labeled "brined."
** Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising turkeys.
3. Thaw. Plan ahead! Depending on its size, the turkey could take half a day or multiple days to defrost. Even our fresh birds develop a thin layer of soft ice (due to USDA-recommended safe shipping temperatures) that needs to melt before cooking.
4. Check the temp. Use a meat thermometer, preferably instant-read, to check for doneness. Test at the thickest part of the thigh not touching bone. When the thermometer registers 165°F, it’s ready.
If you choose to stuff your turkey, plan for an extra 5-7 minutes cooking time per pound, and be sure the stuffing and turkey both register 165°F separately.
Roast Turkey with Apples and Onions5. Flip it. Start roasting your turkey with the breast side down to protect white meat from overcooking and help absorb juices as they run downward into the bottom of the pan. Later, flip the bird over with the breast side up so the skin crisps up and gets golden brown. We’ve got more info on roasting the bird and a few of our favorite recipes.
6. Give it a rest. Turkey needs to rest for about 30 minutes. This redistributes the juices and makes for smooth carving. If you want the skin to stay crisp, don’t cover it.
7. Picture perfect. If you’re worried about carving at the table, present your gorgeously golden brown bird to your guests then return to the kitchen to carve it. Check out our step-by-step guide to carving.
Looking for additional holiday help? Explore our online holiday guide for more tips including the secret to crispy skin, brining, recipes, a servings calculator and more.
Frozen? Dry? Burnt? Share your worst turkey disaster in the comments below and save the rest of us from a similar fate.
Blog Updated on 2/19/2015.