Help me sort through turkey myths! How do you really bake the perfect bird?
There are several ways to achieve the perfect bird, and many method mistakes. Number one on my hit list of popular turkey myths and tricks is the "breast side down turkey" method, since nine out of ten times the breast skin will be torn and soggy. If you want a golden, moist, and succulent turkey, I suggest you try basting, brining, roasting, grilling, or even deep-frying.
Now let's talk turkey-traditional roasted turkey! Here's how I like to prepare my favorite bird...
First, rinse it off in cold water and dry it thoroughly. A moist piece of meat or poultry will not get a crispy, dark outside; it will simply start to steam. After the turkey is dried, I like to put my hand between the skin and breast meat and separate them so I can place fresh sage leaves across each side and rub in butter or olive oil (an optional self-basting method). Next, take your turkey for a day at the spa, so to speak-give it a nice rub down using either butter or oil. Rub it all over the top and bottom of the bird, liberally salt it, and add a bit of pepper if you choose.
You will then truss, or tie, the legs together so your bird is nice and compact. Keeping the turkey compact is key to even cooking. Roasting your bird on a rack will ensure a crispy top and bottom. Have your oven pre-heated to 400 degrees. By roasting your turkey at 400 degrees for the first 15 minutes you will start crisping the skin right away. After the first 15 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees for the remainder of your turkey's time in the oven. If, as it roasts, your bird starts getting too dark, place some foil lightly over the top.
If you decided that putting your hand under the skin to insert butter and sage was not on your agenda for the day, you will want to do some basting. After the first 30 minutes, begin spooning the pan drippings over the breast every 20 minutes. You might also consider taking a spray bottle full of chicken or turkey stock and misting the bird every so often. This will ensure a nice, crisp skin and more flavor than you ever imagined.
Before serving, remember to rest your turkey. The heat during cooking forces all the moisture in the bird toward its center. Resting allows time for the moisture to redistribute itself to the meat. So, after a big day in the oven, grill, or fryer, give the bird a rest and go take yourself a little nap!