Nothing is quite as spectacular as that delicious smelling, golden turkey being carried out on a platter. I remember growing up what a monumental task it was to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner…or so I thought. It’s not as hard as I once thought…especially if you use a roasting bag. This is how my mom did it, how I do it, and maybe you’ll find it’ll become your tradition as well. Give it a try and impress your family.
Putting on a Thanksgiving dinner is all about planning and timing. The most important planning step you make is leaving time to thaw a frozen turkey. Of course if you buy your turkey fresh, that’s one less thing to do. But I never do, especially since frozen turkeys are so inexpensive, sometimes as low as $5/turkey. That’s a lot of food for $5.
Safely thawing a frozen turkey is one of the most important steps in preparing a meal. There are two recommended methods depending on the amount of time you have. Refrigerator thawing is preferred and the least labor-intensive but requires more time. You should plan on at least 1 day of thawing for every 4 lbs.; doing the math, that could take up to 5 days for a 20-pounder, so plan ahead! (it also takes up precious refrigerator space.) Cold water thawing takes less time but requires more attention. Thaw breast side down in an unopened wrapper with enough cold water to cover your turkey completely. You can use a clean unused bucket, or one half of the kitchen sink. Change water every 30 minutes to keep the turkey chilled. Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per lb. That still comes to 10 hours for a 20-pound turkey, but that’s better than 5 days. Regardless of which method you choose, you should never thaw a turkey at room temperature.
Thirty minutes to an hour before roasting, take the turkey out of the fridge. Remove any packaging and the bag of giblets (you’ll find them hiding in the body cavity and in the neck cavity). The mistake of not removing the giblets is a classic rookie mistake. But you now know the hiding place, so you’ll come out looking like a pro!
Here’s what you’ll find…heart, neck, kidney and liver. You can make giblet gravy or cook them up for your anxiously awaiting dog. (actually, cooked turkey liver is quite yummy.)
One last step. Put the raw turkey into the turkey-sized roasting bag, then into a large roasting pan. Follow the directions on the box; it’s really quite easy. I like to rub the skin with some butter and sprinkle with sage and other seasonings. Stuff the turkey cavity with 1 chopped onion, 1/2 the celery, 1 sprig of thyme, and the bay leaf. Scatter the remaining vegetables and thyme around the bottom of the roasting bag. Yum, it’s going to be good!
Now the fun part. Follow the directions below and you will have a perfect, moist, and most delicious turkey that would impress even the pickiest guest. Enjoy!
Cook Your First Perfect Turkey…Like Mom
1 (18 lb.) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
1 turkey sized roasting bag
1/2 cup butter, melted or olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and chopped into large chunks
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. sage seasoning
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Thoroughly rinse the thawed turkey. (Did you remember to remove the giblets from both the cavity and neck area? Don’t forget!) Place turkey in a turkey-sized roasting bag, following the instructions on the box. Brush the turkey with the melted butter or the oil, and sprinkle with poultry seasoning and sage. Stuff the turkey cavity with 1 onion, 1/2 the celery, 1 sprig of thyme, and the bay leaf. Scatter the remaining vegetables and thyme around the bottom of the roasting bag. Place breast side up in a shallow roasting pan.
Roast 3-1/2 to 4 hours in the preheated oven or as directed on the roasting bag box (which is usually faster). Allow the bird to stand about 30 minutes before carving.
Perfect, you impressive cook you!