Wishing everyone a Happy New Year! May 2012 be everything you want it to be and more!
When it comes to entertaining during the Holidays, there are often certain expectations and many of these are self-imposed.
Here are some tips to help you survive your Holiday dinner parties - whether you are having guests around for dinner or a big family traditional meal. Not all of these tips will apply to every occasion, but even if you pick two or three for a specific meal, they will help your day go smoother and most of all - be more enjoyable for you:
So you've worked out you're going to cook a turkey and you have a recipe. But often that's where the information ends. Here are some tips to help you through the various steps of cooking your turkey, no matter what recipe you use.
Before anything, you need a turkey. Check out our Everything Turkey posting providing information about selecting the best turkey for your needs, as well as determining how long it will need to cook for.
Avoid feeling rushed and stressed out on the day by putting together a timetable to work out when each task needs to be completed. This should include when to start cooking the turkey, when to start cooking each side dish and everything else that needs to happen before you sit down to eat. Check out our Thanksgiving Planning Guide for more information.
So, you've got the turkey, you know how long to cook it for, you have a timetable, and undoubtedly the first thing you'll need to do is start cooking the bird...
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator at least an hour before starting to cook. This allows the turkey to get to room temperature and will help with cooking it evenly.
Before you can cook the turkey, you need to prepare it. Remove the bag of giblets (the heart, liver, gizzards and neck of the bird) from the inside of the turkey. They are generally in a sealed bag stuffed in the neck of the bird or in the main body cavity. The giblets can be used for stock or gravy.
Next, remove the turkey timer if there is one. The turkey timer isn't an accurate way of determining whether the bird is cooked. It's merely a temperature sensitive switch that pops once the switch has come to a predefined temperature. Removing it is merely so you don't get fooled or confused.
Remove any remaining feathers. Sometimes there's a few remaining feathers on the turkey once it has been plucked - these are generally near the legs or wings. The easiest way to remove them is with a pair tweezers.
Wash the turkey inside and out with running cold tap water. Dry the inside and out with paper towels. Season the inside of the turkey liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you're not going to stuff the turkey with stuffing, fill the turkey with:
To ensure your turkey cooks evenly, you need to truss it with string (make sure you use cotton string as plastic based twines will melt). This keeps the turkey more compact and makes sure the wings and legs aren't cooked before the remainder of the turkey. The easiest way to do this is by cutting a piece of string 3 times the length of the turkey. Find the center of the string. Now with the legs facing toward you, reach over and wrap the string around the back of the turkey (furthest away from you) starting at the bottom with the center of the string being in the middle. Bring each side of the string round the sides of the bird and over the top of the legs (between with legs and the body). Loop the ends of the string around (under and then over) the ends of the legs so that the string catches the turkey legs to pull them together. Now bring the two ends of the string together at the end closest to you and pull firmly to tie a knot or bow (see photograph below).
Finally tuck the wing tips under the string so that everything is compact (see photograph below).
Cook the turkey in a large roasting pan, preferably with a roasting rack. This elevates the turkey and allows the heat to circulate around the whole bird. If you don't have a rack, roughly cut large pieces of carrot and onion, place them evenly in the bottom of the pan. Then rest the turkey on the vegetables. The vegetables will elevate the bird as well as adding flavor to the meat juices.
Baste the turkey as per the recipe but be careful about adding too much liquid to the pan as it will steam the turkey rather than roast it.
So you've been cooking the turkey for a while (but it's not done yet) and you notice the skin is darkening sooner than you want. All you need to do is create a "turkey tent" with some aluminum foil (see photograph below) - it doesn't have to be sealed shut, merely secured enough to move the turkey in and out of the oven without falling off. Remember to remove the foil about 30 minutes before you are due to remove the turkey from the oven so that it finishes browning up.
The last important thing to remember is that once you take the turkey out of the oven, it needs to rest at room temperature for at least 20 to 30 minutes before you start carving. This allows the juices to flow back into the meat, creating a moister turkey. When you take the turkey out the oven, transfer it to a warm platter and cover with aluminum foil - you can use the same foil you used when the turkey was cooking. This allows you to use the pan you were cooking the turkey in for making the gravy. Just before serving drain off the excess liquid that will have pooled in the bottom of the turkey platter during resting.
The holidays are a wonderful time to catch up with family and friends but sometimes entertaining large numbers of guests can be daunting and a little bit stressful. Here are some simple ideas for helping reduce the Thanksgiving entertaining stress:
For a quick reference checklist use our Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet: