Thanksgiving turkeys are the territory of women who have long traversed the culinary world and can offer proof that they indeed know what they are doing. They baste with a steady hand, insert the thermometer in the meatiest section, and season with confidence. I am a newcomer to the actual preparation of this Thanksgiving tradition, nothing but a Padawan learner who must rely on her Jedi masters for guidance.
Because this Padawan didn’t even know what “place the turkey skin side up” meant.
I took my first steps toward this culinary tradition last night. The gobbler was a seven-pound bone-in turkey breast, big enough to qualify as a hefty undertaking by a newbie but not massive. I picked a recipe that took the least amount of time to make – two hours of roasting would give me just enough time if I got off work early and started immediately. My recipe didn’t tell me to cover the turkey from the beginning so the turkey started browning absurdly early. I called a couple of turkey experts and ended up covering the turkey with foil and moving it down a rack in the oven.
Me: “What does “skin side up” mean? I mean, apart from the obvious.”
Wendy: “Umm… it means the obvious.”
Me: “But… what does that mean?”
Wendy: “Think of how you see it in pictures and magazines – that’s what it should look like.”
Me: “Ohh… good.”
Two hours went by but the turkey was definitely NOT done. An extra hour and an additional 25 degrees did the trick though, and we did finally serve our turkey.
So what did I learn?
1. Make sure the turkey is thoroughly defrosted. I think this is where I messed up – I bought the turkey exactly 24 hours before I put it in the oven, and I don’t think that was enough time.
2. Ensure you have an instant-read thermometer to test the turkey. I thought we had one but I was wrong, and we had to make do with a candy thermometer.
3. Keep the turkey experts on speed dial.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!