Cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving Day is no more difficult than cooking any meal on any other day. Sure the bird takes several hours to cook and you want it to look perfectly brown for the big presentation, but it doesn’t have to a stressful situation.
I make our Thanksgiving Turkey the same way every year and it always comes out perfect. And I hardly spend any time on it! Some of my steps might seem like cheating, but they work and the bird comes out so juicy and tasty that we look forward to it every year. We save even more time by purchasing the dinner rolls the day before from a local bakery and using a local catering company for some of the sides. Picking them up, rather than having them delivered saves money, too.
You will need very few items. The first thing you’ll need obviously is the turkey. If you can, choose one with the pop up indicator. This little device is extremely helpful and you don’t have to keep poking a hole into the meat for the thermometer. But if you prefer, you’re turkey doesn’t necessarily have to have a pop-up. In this case, you’ll need a meat thermometer.
Next, purchase some turkey bags. Reynolds makes a great turkey bag and comes in sizes big enough for large turkeys. They usually come in a pack of three or four. You’ll only need one but the package is pretty inexpensive.
Third, choose either a turkey baster or a cooking brush. A baster is easier to use but the brush works fine too. Whichever one you go with, pick one out that has as long of a handle as possible as you are going to be working with a lot of heat later.
Lastly, you’ll need a roasting pan, small amount of flour and about a cup of butter, margarine or butter spread. The flour is used to coat the inside of the cooking bag so you don’t need a lot. A large amount of butter will be needed for the entire course of cooking the turkey. Melt the butter completely before beginning. Choose as deep of a roasting pan as possible.
Follow the directions on the cooking bag for preparing it for the turkey. You’ll need to place a small amount of flour into the bag, hold the neck of the bag shut and shake to thoroughly coat the inside. Place the bird into the bag so that his legs point towards the opening of the bag as it will open more easily when the cooking is complete.
Don’t forget to use the included strings for a carrying device. The turkey will be extremely hot and juicy and this little device works great for lifting. Be sure to place the strings appropriately keeping in mind that the meat will be very tender, almost falling off the bone later. You’ll want to have the strings placed so that the support is under both legs and wings.
Don’t forget to remove the extra bits from the bird. Search the bird and remove the bags that contain the neck and organs and do with them what you wish.
With the turkey in the bag and in a roasting pan, use the plastic ties to secure the bag closed. These can be a bit of a pain to use but get it as tight as you can. Once secure, cut a few slits in the bag above the meatiest part of the turkey. Puff the bag up a bit so that it doesn’t rest on the meat but also so that it won’t touch the insides of your oven. Using your baster or brush, apply a bit of butter all over the surface of the turkey. This is a great time to make sure your slits are located in places that make it easy for you to reach in later and be able to add more butter while the turkey is cooking.
A handy cooking guide is included with the bags. Follow these instructions rather than the ones on a recipe or on the turkey packaging. Because you are using a bag, the cooking time will be shorter than others.
Get that bird cooking but don’t just walk away for six hours, or whatever the cooking time is for the size turkey you are cooking. Set an alarm for every 1 ½ – 2 hours. Every time it goes off, coat the turkey with butter. Be sure to coat the entire breast and the entire legs. This is going to give it a nice golden brown look when it’s all done. Continue doing this every 1 ½ – 2 hours for the entire cooking time.
If you chose a turkey with a pop up, keep watching it. When it pops, it’s done. Otherwise, periodically use your meat thermometer to determine if the bird is done. Always find the meatiest part of the turkey when taking his temperature.
When the turkey is done, you’ll need to remove it from the bag. It’s easiest to cut the top of the bag and fillet it open. Very slowly and carefully pull the bag away from any parts of the turkey where it might have stuck. Doing so too quickly or hastily will peel all of that nice brownness right off. It’ll still taste good…it’ll just be ugly.
Remember those strings that are used for carrying? Those come in handy right about now. Chances are they’ve been sitting in all those juices that are boiling in the bag so they’ll be hot. Get yourself some washable pot holders and grab a hold. This is much easier of there are two people so find yourself a helper. Have your turkey platter ready and very near!
Brace the strings around the parts of the turkey that are likely to fall off such as the wings and legs. Once you are confident that they will stay attached, lift straight up and let it drip. The bag will likely still be sticking to the bottom of the turkey so have your helper peel it away without pulling too much meat off with it. Quickly move the bird from the roasting pan over to the platter and let him rest.
You now have a beautifully golden brown turkey that pretty much looks like those airbrushed ones in they use in the movies! As much of a crime as it seems to cut into such a good looking turkey, get your electric knife, or carving knife, out and just see how juicy and wonderful it looks. Tasting it is much better! This is a no-frills kind of recipe that makes an excellent turkey! Enjoy!