With its massive size, intimidating giblets and critical role in your festive spread, cooking your turkey can seem daunting – if not impossible – for even seasoned cooks.
President's Choice Executive Chef Tom Filippou has cooked more than a few birds in his lifetime, and he’s offering up his top tips for selecting and cooking the perfect holiday turkey.
So what's his secret to a juicy, flavourful bird? Look no further than the humble stick of butter.
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Filippou recommends rubbing butter under the skin of your turkey so it gradually melts into the bird, keeping the meat moist and adding a rich flavour. To do so, simply lift up the skin by the largest cavity and place some soft – not melted – butter between the skin and flesh. Fold the skin back over and massage the top of the turkey to work the butter evenly under the skin.
Rather than reaching for the biggest pan you can find, Filippou suggests cooking your turkey in a pan that fits the bird snugly. This ensures the turkey cooks evenly throughout, and prevents the outer bits from overcooking. Your turkey should never directly touch the bottom of the pan (this can cause the bottom to overcook), so elevate it with a metal rack. If you don't have one, improvise by placing roughly chopped vegetables, such as carrots and onion, in the bottom and resting your turkey over top.
But that's not all – to ensure a moist and flavourful bird, cook it low and slow, at 275F (135C) for 18 to 20 minutes per pound. Basting is key, so be sure to transfer the turkey's natural juices from the bottom of the pan to the prized breast meat every 20 minutes while the bird is cooking.
To make sure your turkey is perfectly cooked through, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Turkey should reach 180F (80C), and your stuffing should reach 165F (74C). While you may be anxious to serve the turkey right away, let it rest for at least 20 minutes (cover it with foil to keep it warm). This allows the muscle fibers to relax, making the meat extra tender.
Slicing your turkey can really make or break your presentation – nothing destroys the ‘wow’ factor quite like a hack job with your knife. Filippou suggests first removing the legs so you can easily access the breast meat. Beginning at the highest point of each turkey breast, slice downward in one even motion. For dark meat, hold the leg by the thinnest part of the drumstick, place your knife halfway up the drumstick and slice downward.
Now put on your festive paper hats, fill your glass with a seasonal cocktail and enjoy your perfectly cooked turkey!
Do you have any turkey-cooking secrets? Share them in the comments below!
Watch the video below for more tips on how to carve a turkey!