The Food Guy, Steven Keith Eating his way through the state, plate by plate

How to Cook Thanksgiving’s Guest of Honor – RIP.

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Yesterday we talked about buying your big Thanksgiving bird. Today, let’s discuss cooking that bad boy!

Here’s some advice from the venerable Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Recipes (and me) on how to roast it to earn raves:

  • Position your oven rack so the turkey sits in the lower third of the oven. If you’re cooking it in a bag – which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND – be sure you allow enough space above so the bag won’t touch the heating elements and burst as it inflates during cooking.
  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. This low-roasting temperature results in a juicier bird.
  • Remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity, drain any juices and rinse the bird thoroughly under cold water. Drain, blot it dry and set it aside to let it reach room temperature.
  • Stuff the turkey (if you wish) and then truss it: Take a 4- to 6-foot piece of cooking twine and tie the legs together at the ankles. Run the twine around the thighs and under the wings. Pull tightly and make a knot around the excess flesh where the turkey’s neck used to be. Trussing the turkey into a compact shape helps to ensure that it cooks evenly and makes it easier to carve.
  • Place the turkey on the oven rack in a pan deep enough to collect any juices that may run off during cooking. (You’ll want to save these to make awesome gravy later!)
  • Lightly brush the bird with melted butter or oil, then generously season with salt, pepper and your favorite herbs – either on the skin’s surface or, better yet, underneath it between skin and meat. (Just gently ply the skin away from the meet with your fingers, and slather your herbed butter mixture inside to better infuse the meat.) And don’t be stingy with the seasoning, either. Turkeys are big and their meat is dense, so they can withstand (and need) lots of flavorings.
  • Roast the turkey, basting with the pan drippings every 40 to 60 minutes. If you’re using a cooking bag, you don’t have to do this. Yet another reason to use the bag – less work, moister meat!
  • When the skin is golden brown, after approximately 1 to 2 hours, shield the breast with a tent of aluminum foil, shiny side out. To prevent over-browning.
  • Thirty minutes before the end of the roasting time, begin taking the turkey’s temperature with an instant-read meat thermometer in both the thigh and breast areas. Continue doing this in 15-minute increments until the thermometer reads at least 180 degrees in both areas.
  • Remove the bird, cover with aluminum foil and let sit for 30 minutes. This allows the juices to retreat back into the meat, making it easier to carve. (And tastier, to boot!)