Thanksgiving is my favorite food holiday! The turkey is the star of the night, and it can be intimidating to get the perfect cook. No matter the recipe, these are some tips for getting a perfect turkey. You may not be able to do all of them depending on how you are cooking the turkey, but these Tips for a Perfectly Roasted Turkey should help you get a juicy, flavorful, perfect turkey. This post contains affiliate links to tools that will help you have the perfect turkey!
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Tuck wings under bird for even cooking
If the wings are sticking out on the bird, they are much more likely to cook too fast. This is because there is more heat coming from multiple directions around a smaller mass. Tucking in the wings (and tying the legs together) will make the turkey into one large mass. This means more even cooking and less likelihood of the turkey drying out!
Sometimes the bird does not want to cooperate, so you might have to get creative like I did here. Ideally you want to tuck the wings down (toward the legs) and then under the back. If this is not working, you can flip them up and behind the neck area (like the picture). If the wings are not staying in place, you can using some cooking twine around the bird to hold it all together.
Use a loose tin foil tent to control browning
While you want that bird to get a nice, golden brown, you do not want it browning too fast and getting too dark! Use two sheets of aluminum foil that are long enough to reach past the ends of the roasting pan. Overlap them on the long edge about an inch and fold them together. You now have your tin foil tent!
Place this loosely over the bird and lightly tuck down the edges. The bird should be completely covered. You will be removing it later to finish browning, plus you will use the tin foil tent when the turkey is resting before carving.
Apply butter to keep foil from sticking
Even with a loose tin foil tent over the turkey, it can still stick. To avoid this problem, you can apply some butter (or even oil) to the bird at the highest and most outward points that are most likely to touch the foil. Think top of the bird, rounded part of the leg, etc. Want to add some additional flavor? Use a compound butter like this Sun-dried Tomato Roasted Garlic Compound Butter!
Basting is your friend
Basteb, baste, baste! If your recipe allows for it, this is one of the most important steps in my opinion. Basting keeps juices on the bird and they slowly seep into the turkey, keeping it moist and full of flavor. This is one of the most important tips in this Tips for a Perfectly Roasted Turkey list! Grab a baster if you do not have one already! Once the turkey has starting to make drippings (approximately 2 hours), I baste at least every 30 minutes. Be sure to hit all parts of the bird for an even baste!
Remove foil to finish browning
Your tin foil tent will be protecting the bird from browning much during the cooking process. It will still brown a little which is fine, but at a much lower speed. Remove the foil in the last 30-45 minutes to finish the browning process. Your bird will end up being a beautiful, golden brown .
Use thermometer to test doneness
Even though turkeys typically come with that pop-up thermometer, it is always a good idea to test the temperature of the bird yourself. You want the temperature to be at least 165 (follow your turkey’s package directions). Use a meat thermometer that you can rely on to double check this. I always measure the temperature in multiple spots just to be sure, including the thickest areas.
Let turkey rest before carving
Using your tin foil tent from earlier, cover your bird and let it rest 20-30 minutes before carving. Just like with steaks, letting the turkey rest will help the meat hold onto the moisture in the bird. This is a great time to finish off other dishes in the oven! Make sure that you have a quality carving set for the perfect, easy slice.
Want to make your own turkey pan gravy? It is fast and easy, and the perfect time to do it is when the turkey is resting. Check out how to make a turkey pan gravy here!
Give yourself wiggle room
Most importantly, make sure that you are allowing some wiggle room in your cooking schedule! Sometimes a turkey can take longer than anticipated to cook, especially if you decide to stuff the bird. Don’t pressure yourself too much for things to be ready at a specific time. We always plan for an hour or so earlier than we would ideally like to eat. This way if something happens, you have a buffer of time!
I hope your turkey turns out perfectly for your holiday with these Tips for a Perfectly Roasted Turkey. Do you have a favorite or traditional turkey recipe that you always use?