Turkey doesn’t just have to be relegated to Thanksgiving. Or to Christmas or Easter or any other holiday for that matter. Turkey is available year round and it always makes a welcome addition to the dinner table. You may be so intimidated by the idea of making turkey that you have gotten into the habit of reserving it only for special occasions. Why would you want to deny you and your family the pleasure of enjoying a succulent turkey throughout the year?
Roasting a turkey for the holidays is a great big deal and getting it wrong can cast a pall over the entire day. The pressure is relieved from the kitchen when the day isn’t special. Cook a turkey on a day when you don’t have all that holiday emotional turmoil and you will quickly see that it’s not really the turkey creating the pressure. As long as you know what to do to get the most from the turkey, that is.
You have probably heard it before and doubtlessly will again, but do you actually pay attention? Thawing a turkey by propping its frozen carcass up in the sink is not the most efficient or healthiest way to rid the big bird of ice. Neither is using warm or hot water. Paradoxically, cold water is the best engine for defrosting a turkey. Keep the turkey in its original packaging and set the whole thing down in a sink filled with cold water. Every hour or so, drain the sink and refill with cold water.
Tired of dealing with turkey meat that is dry and flavorless? Well, you can expect only so much flavor from a turkey, but one way up the odds of cutting into a juicy bird is through injection. Invest in one of those marinade injectors and fill it with a melted butter. Inject equal amounts of the butter in various locations around the bird before you place it into the oven. Don’t just focus on the breast, but make sure to inject the butter beneath the skin of the drumsticks, thighs and wings. Then get ready to say goodbye to dry turkey meat.
Rack of Celery
If you want to keep the turkey from sticking to the bottom of the roasting pan and you don’t have a metal rack to place there, make a rack out of celery stalks. Make sure to use the freshest celery you can find. The sturdier, the better. A row of rigid celery stalks placed beneath the turkey makes for an effective raised rack to keep the turkey skin from sticking. In addition, the celery will soak up the turkey drippings and can be diced afterwards as a delicious addition to dressing.
Contrary to what you may have overheard growing up, basting a turkey is not necessary. Whether you buy a self-basting turkey or not, avoid this practice at least until the very end. The heat that you lose by opening the oven door to baste the turkey is not worth the very little gain you get from the task. The basting is not going to penetrate through the skin enough to add enough flavor to make up for the extra time it will take to cook because you keep letting heat escape through the open door. The only really positive effect of basting is browning the skin to make it a little crispier and better-looking. This can be accomplished just as well by waiting until the last 30 minutes of cooking time and by then the negative effect of losing heat won’t have such an impact.
If you don’t want to bother with complex stuffing of turkey either for health reasons or effort, you have some pretty decent alternatives that are both easy and lend flavor. Filling up the cavity of your turkey with apples or onions produces two very distinct, but equally delicious results. If even the process of carving up apples or onions is too much work, create 4 to 1 mix of water and pineapple or grapefruit juice and flood the interior of your turkey prior to cooking.