Why Most North Dakota Turkeys On Thanksgiving Probably Suck
Of course, we don't mean yours, or your significant others', or your mom's, or your grandma's; just everyone else's turkey most likely leaves a lot to be desired.
Here are a lot of things that people do wrong and some ways to improve your Thanksgiving feast.
The first two steps can be saved with an easy, albeit semi-advanced, method.
1. Dry Turkey
Because turkeys are so large, people think that they are hard to cook. With the low and slow roaster method, you may think that you are keeping a lot of moisture in the bird; however, no amount of gravy can save overdone white meat that continues to cook, waiting for the dark meat to be food-safe.
2. Time Sink
Waking up at four in the morning to prepare the afternoon feast is a point of pride for many Thanksgiving hosts. But missing out on family showing up and conversing until the meal is served can leave you drained and tapped out for any after-dinner activities, whether it is hanging lights (and yes, that is officially the appropriate time to hang them and not a minute sooner) or watching football and screaming at the television for Joe Buck to mercifully shut up.
How to fix them:
Spatchcock Your Turkey
Spatchcocking (or butterflying) your turkey is a non-gimmicky way to get you to turkey perfection fast. The technique involves removing the backbone and flattening the bird for cooking.
It's even easier than it sounds:
Pad the turkey dry and place it back up on a cutting board, then use a pair of cooking sheers or scissors and cut along each side of the back bone to remove it.
Flip the bird over on a sheet pan and wire rack and press down on it like you are giving it CPR (please don't attempt to give it mouth-to-mouth). You should hear a couple loud crunches as it flattens out.
A bonus move is to put the aromatics on a sheet tray and then the turkey on a wire rack on top of the veggies.
Overall, you will get a more evenly cooked turkey that will take far less time in the kitchen.
Godfather of Making Sure Food Isn't Stupid Alton Brown has a fantastic video on the procedure:
3. Skip The Butter
In the search for something moist and juicy for Thanksgiving, people often stuff butter under the skin of their birds to enhance flavor and inhibit browning, but science is fighting against them.
Butter is around 17% water, and when that cooks off in the oven, it will produce steam under the skin that at best will make your bird splotchy and at worst will make your turkey taste like buttery bird leather.
Save The Butter For The Skin
If you want to imbue the turkey with a rich, buttery flavor, baste it at regular intervals during the cooking session. You will have a richly browned exterior, with the butter congregating in the bottom pan to make a remarkable gravy.
4. Save The Wet Brine For St. Patty's Day.
The salt in the brine will break down the protein in the turkey muscle and allow your bird to absorb 7 to 13 percent more moisture than an unbrined bird. However, that moisture is just salt water. According to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, brined turkey will be juicier, but it will taste more watery.
Instead, go for a dry brining. Rub the turkey all over with kosher salt and let it sit in the fridge for a night or two before it’s cooked. It helps the turkey retain its own natural juices.
5. Don't Stuff
Not only does this significantly enhance your cooking time by having a stuffed bird, but it can also lead to foodborne illness. When juices from the turkey start flying from the oven, they are not up to temp, and they will nestle in the nooks and cranny's in the middle of the stuffing. Even when the meat is fully cooked, the middle of the stuffing may still be in the danger zone of below (according to the CDC) 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just make dressing; it is literally the same. If you REALLY want "essence of turkey" in your stuffing, just cook up the giblets and add the stock then.
There, now if you follow those steps, not only will you save yourself time and headaches, but when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, you will also avoid sending Aunt Caroline to the ER with Salmonella.
As for topics to spice up the dinner table, that will be in an article on a later date... Like tomorrow.
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Gallery Credit: Billy Jenkins
Gallery Credit: Gwen