We love Thanksgiving and its star -- the beloved turkey -- but making the perfect bird can be pretty intimidating.
But fear no more: Thanks to the gang over at the Mayo Clinic, everything Turkey Day -- from selection to serving -- has been demystified.
Check out these 10 Tips for Choosing & Preparing a Thanksgiving Bird (including an easy-to-follow carving video!):
1. Turkey Selection
For serving size, the rule of thumb is to allow at least one pound per person (if you like leftovers, choose a turkey that is a few lbs more than the number of people you are serving). Although a pound per person may seem like a lot, much of the weight comes from bones and fat that will be trimmed away.
2. Defrosting the Bird
Plan ahead. Keep the turkey fully frozen until you are ready to thaw (thawing time depends on method). To thaw in the refrigerator: Place the turkey on a tray in its original wrapper. Allow at least one full day for every four pounds of weight. For example: A 12-pound turkey will take about four days to thaw.
To thaw it in the sink: Place the wrapped turkey in a clean sink and cover with cold water. Allow 30 minutes for every pound and change the water every half hour.
3. Turkey Prep
Once thawed, remove giblets and rinse the turkey both inside and out with cold water. Trim any excess fat. The neck can be roasted with the bird for extra flavor.
4. The Base of the Roast
Place raw, chopped vegetables on the bottom of the roasting pan. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and place on top, breast side up. The vegetables will keep the turkey off the bottom of the pan, allowing air to circulate and evenly cook the bird. Serve the roasted vegetables as a side.
5. Salmonella Safety
Use sanitizer (instead of just soap and water) to wipe down anything the raw poultry may have touched. Be sure to wash your hands after handling the bird to avoid spreading salmonella.
6. Dual Temperature
Start the oven on a high temperature before reducing the temp to finish it low and slow. Place roast in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. This allows the turkey get a nice brown sear on the outside, while the moisture pushes inside the bird. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 275 to finish until bird is cooked.
7. Checking for Doneness
Stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The turkey is done when it reaches 165 degrees. A 12-pound bird will take roughly five hours.
8. Let It Rest
Once out of the oven, allow the bird to rest for at least 20 minutes to redistribute the juices throughout the meat. This will keep the turkey moist and tender. Cover it with a lid or foil to keep warm while resting.
9. Carving Your Bird
Start by popping out the thighs, then remove the wings and separate the legs from the thighs. When slicing the breast, cut against the grain of the meat.
10. Safely Handling Leftovers
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After the meal, promptly refrigerate or freeze the turkey. It should not sit at room-temperature for more than two hours. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for three to four days.
Enjoy a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day!