Thanksgiving is on its way, and many of you will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. That can be a scary undertaking for any host or hostess. There are so many questions; do I buy frozen or fresh? How long will it take to defrost? What temperature do I cook it at, and for how long? Do I cover it while cooking? How do I carve it?
Well I have many years experience cooking and serving this magnificent feast. So calm down, and I’ll walk you through it step by step.
Selecting the Bird
Many first-timers agonize over whether to buy fresh or frozen. Well that all depends on the size you need, the refrigerator/freezer space you have, and How far ahead of time you have to get the turkey.
If time is plentiful, and you see a great deal on frozen turkeys, buy one. You can keep a prefrozen turkey in the freezer safely for up to six months. Any more than that you run the risk of spoilage. Spoilage you won’t notice until the bird is defrosted. By then it could be too late to get another one in time.
If you are a last-minute shopper, a fresh turkey saves a lot of defrosting hours or even days. Personally I prefer a fresh turkey, mostly because I don’t have to worry if it will be defrosted in time for the oven.
Another decision to be made by many is the whole turkey or parts. If you know your family and friends will not want dark meat, cooking just a turkey breast could be just right for you. If there are always fights over the dark meat, Buy and roast extra turkey legs and thighs. If all they like is brown meat, cook the legs and thighs alone.
Whether frozen or fresh, the whole bird or parts make sure to buy enough. A good gauge to go by is, one pound of meat per person with ample leftover for sandwiches. And remember, the weight will also reflect the bones, so overestimate by at least five pounds.
All turkeys are alike, right? Not necessarily. Nowadays there are free-range turkeys, corn-fed turkeys, “Gourmet” style turkeys and more. So which is the best? Well that all depends on your preference. I tend to buy turkeys from companies I know and trust for their quality.
And remember a smoked turkey tastes a lot different than a ordinary turkey. If you haven’t tried one or if your guests aren’t accustomed to the smoky flavor, it’s a good idea to save the smoked turkey for another day.