Everyone has their own favorite way to cook the turkey for the holidays, creating the centerpiece for the festivities and traditions. Whether you have a tried-and-true way to prepare the bird, or experiment with something a little different every time, these three ways to cook a better turkey will take it to the next level.
Use a Roasting Rack
A roasting rack is the key to getting that crispy, even skin with juicy, tender meat hiding beneath. Place the bird on the rack to ensure it sits above the juices and allows the air in the oven to flow easily around it. Remember – you’re roasting the meat, not boiling it in its juices.
If you don’t have a roasting pan, you can improvise by setting the turkey on upside down ramekins or balls of foil in your pan. Do whatever works to lift it up and keep it out of the liquid.
Cook with Convection
Use convection if your oven has it, and don’t forget to drop the temperature recommended in the recipe by 25 degrees. With convection, the fan will distribute the heat more evenly around the oven so the turkey cooks from the outside in rather than from the bottom up. Convection will also give you a more moist bird since the moisture will also be recirculated.
If your oven does not have convection, make sure you pre-heat it well, and put an empty cookie sheet on the bottom rack with the turkey on the rack just above it. This little trick will help even the flow of heat.
Stop at 165 Degrees
It is critical to cook the turkey to the perfect temperature, and no higher. Turkey is done and safe to eat at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and you can take it out of the oven at 160ºF and let it finish cooking naturally on the countertop.
Most turkeys come with a little red pop-up thermometer in them, which usually pop up when the turkey is at 180ºF. This temperature keeps the packing plant from the risk of anyone getting sick, but it also guarantees a dry, overcooked turkey, so don’t rely on it!
Many ovens come with temperature probes that you can plug in and use to set a target temperature. If your oven has this, use it to set the target temperature to 160ºF and don’t worry about setting a time. If not, go get a meat thermometer and use it.
When your turkey has reached its final temperature, take it out of the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before serving – even up to an hour if you’re trying to synchronize the other dishes. Letting the bird rest is important, as it allows the heat to distribute itself evenly and the juices to reabsorb into the tissue. Instead of a puddle of liquid on the countertop, you’ll get moist, tender, and juicy meat.
For more information on cooking with convection, check out our blog post on the subject. Now that you have these three tricks up your sleeve, you can make this year’s turkey with confidence – and wow your friends and family in the process.