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How to Cook a Turkey

December 29th, 2012 Seasonal

You can't always rely on someone else to make the turkey for a holiday get-together. If you're hosting Thanksgiving at your house for the first time, you'd better know how to cook that beautiful bird just right.

The first thing you have to do to prepare the turkey for cooking is let it completely thaw in the refrigerator for a few days. Once it's ready, reach into the turkey's cavity and take out anything inside, like giblets. Rubbing the entire turkey with fat, inside and out, can boost the flavor. Try using butter with a mixture of salt and herbs and stuff some underneath the skin, but avoid putting too much, as the meat could get greasy.

Although stuffing is often a staple, you should avoid cooking it directly in the bird. If you do want to stuff your turkey, let it cook until the inside is at least 165°F. Next, place the turkey with the breast side up on a baking tray or cookie sheet and fold both wings underneath the back. Take a piece of twine and cross the legs at their thinnest point before tying them together.

You want the turkey to roast evenly with a crispy skin, so use a roasting rack to elevate the turkey from the surface of the pan, which will let air get all the way around the bird.

Set your oven at 400°F and leave your turkey in there for three to six hours, depending on the size. Use a meat thermometer that stays in the turkey and lets you set an alarm. If you keep opening the oven door to check on it, your cook time will be slower. Your whole turkey should be done when it is between 170° and 180°F.

Finally, use the juices in the pan to make gravy by mixing it with white wine and a little cornstarch. Before you know it your very first bird will be ready to be served and thoroughly enjoyed by your guests.