Q&A: Thanksgiving Day cooking tips
Posted November 21, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — As you make your final preparations for Thanksgiving Day meals, here are some tips and recipes from from local chefs to help make your feast even better. Holiday recipes, preparation tips
Question: How do you keep a turkey from getting dry?
Chad McIntyre, Market Restaurant
Brine, brine, brine. The key to remember is 1 hour per pound of turkey. So a 12-pound bird needs to brine for 12 hours.
2 gallons Water
2 cups kosher salt
2 cups packed light brown sugar
10 cloves of garlic - minced
3 stems of rosemary
5 whole bay leaves
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
Directions: Heat vinegar, add all ingredients except water. Steep for 15 minutes, then add to water. Place thawed turkey in brine for appropriate time needed.
Darrell Brown, The Pit
Depending on the size of the bird, you will want to cook the bird around 13-15 minutes per pound on a preheated conventional oven, set at 350 degrees. (If using convection, preheat it to 300 degrees.) A secret of mine is that I take my vegetables (carrots, celery and onions) and place them at the bottom of the roasting pan with one cup of chicken stock.
I rest the bird on the vegetables. Season the bird with salt and pepper. Don’t want to use too much seasoning. Cover the bird with parchment paper, and then aluminum foil. Place bird in the oven. Cook 13-15 minutes per pound. Usually the conventional birds have a temperature gauge that pops out when the turkey’s ready.
About three quarters of the way through the cooking process, remove the foil and the parchment paper, and coat the bird with butter. That will brown the bird.
Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. By then, the moisture will fill the bird and should keep moist inside. Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. By waiting to carve, this gives the juices time to settle and redistribute. Otherwise, all the juice will run out and will make it dry.
Elise Johnson, Cookbook author Chef: Thanksgiving Day meals are about taste, not look
I always make my stuffing or dressing in a pan separate from my turkey. I never stuff my bird. Why? By the time it is safe enough to eat the stuffing, the turkey is dried out.
I like to place my turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan or on a bed of carrots, onions, celery and lemons. You can also loosely fill your turkey with aromatic vegetables like sliced onions, a few carrots, 3 heads of garlic cut in half, fresh sage, thyme, parsley and lemons inside your bird but do not over stuff. Make a compound butter with herbs to rub all over the turkey.
You can also make the Portuguese marinade I grew up enjoying. The marinade covers the bottom half of your turkey and olive oil is used to achieve a crispy skin.
Cooking times will differ depending on whether your bird was purchased fresh or frozen. Plan on 20 minutes per pound in a 350 degree F oven for a defrosted turkey and 10 to 15 minutes per pound for fresh.
Be sure to cover your turkey completely until the last hour. Uncovering in the last hour will keep it moist and then crisp it up in the end. Remove your turkey from the oven when the deepest spot between the leg and the breast reads 180 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.
You must tent the bird with foil and let it rest for about 15 minutes before carving. Like most meats and poultry, carving into it before allowing it to rest will make the juices run and will leave you with a dry turkey.
Brining a turkey is another common method used to insure a moist and flavorful bird, but this requires patience as well and must also be done in advance. It’s super easy though. If you are thinking of frying your turkey be sure to be very careful.
Mike Casey, Cantina 18
A great way to prepare your holiday turkey without drying it out is by making a brine to put the turkey in over night. A brine is a liquid that can be made to an individual's liking in order to flavor the turkey. Use brown sugar, water, and salt as a base, add whatever spices you see fit.
Place turkey in a large container so it is covered by the liquid over night. The next day, rinse off and cook at a low temperature of 300 to 325 degrees. While cooking, continue basting the turkey with juices in the pan to keep it moist.
Once the turkey has reached 165 degrees, you are ready to serve and enjoy!
Question: How long should you thaw a turkey?
It usually takes 36 to 48 hours to thaw a fully frozen large turkey in a refrigerator.
If you have a frozen turkey, give it least 48 hours to thaw. Place it in a casserole dish and put it in the fridge.
Thawing a frozen turkey always requires patience and we know that patience always pays off in the end. My mom always told me that thawing your turkey in the refrigerator was the safest method. It takes approximately 3 days for a 20-pound turkey to fully defrost in the refrigerator, so be sure to plan ahead.
Uncovering your turkey in the refrigerator on the last day will help you attain a nice crispy skin.
Take your turkey out of the freezer two days before you are ready to serve. Let it thaw in the refrigerator for the best results.
Recipes from our chefs
Darrell Brown's Cranberry Chutney
- 128 ounces of fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
- 4 ounces orange juice
- 6 ounces cranberry juice
- 1 cinnamon sticks
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Method of Preparation:
- Combine half cranberries with all of the ingredients except the berries and vanilla in a large stock pot on medium heat.
- Simmer for 10 minutes until all of the sugar has dissolved and the juice has started to reduce.
- Continue to simmer until the cranberries start to pop and sauce start to thicken about 10-15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, add vanilla extract and let stand for 5 minutes. Then add berries and cranberries.
- Cool to 40 degrees. Store in refrigerator.
Chef’s note: Do not over-reduce or cranberries will dissolve, leaving only the skin. If you have any leftover chutney, you can put it on ice cream or pie.
Elise Johnson's Carrot Potato Mash
- 3 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (for cooking purposes, it is very important to cut the potatoes all the same size)
- 2 lb. carrots, peeled and cubed
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 stick of salted butter, cubed
- 1 1/2 to 2 cup milk, taken out a few minutes early
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- Kosher or Sea Salt and Pepper, to taste
Method Of Preparation:
Place the potatoes, carrots and garlic cloves in a large pan and cover with cold water. To insure even cooking, the potatoes and carrots should be uniform in size and always started in cold water rather than hot. Cook your vegetables just until fork tender. Over cooking your potatoes will make them gummy.
Once tender, drain the water out of your pan and place the pan back over a low heat. Keeping the potatoes and carrots over a low heat will insure that they are dry and it will also help heat your butter and milk as you mash. Adding very cold milk will make your potatoes cease up and that is why I prefer setting my milk on the counter a few minutes before using. Add your butter, salt and black pepper.
Although I love my electric mixer, I prefer using a potato masher or ricer for this task because a mixer can overwork the potatoes and make them like glue. The texture of your mashed potatoes is entirely up to you. If you like a little texture in your mashed potatoes, mash them less and if you prefer a smooth consistency, mash them a bit more.
You may add more milk to get a creamier consistency if you’d like.
Mike Casey's Bacon-Braised Cabbage
- 1 ea green cabbage, medium sized
- 3 ea carrots, peeled
- 2 ea yellow onion, medium dice
- 12 ea bacon slices, thick cut
- 2 tsp sherry vinegar
- ½ cup picked parsley
Method Of Preparation:
- Cut bacon into 1/8 inch “matchsticks”(easier to cut if the bacon is frozen). Cut carrots in half lengthwise, and then in half again lengthwise. Then turn carrots sideways and cut into 1/8 inch triangles. Slice cabbage thinly as if for slaw.
- In a large pot, on low heat, render bacon slowly until just before crispy. Remove bacon pieces from the pot, save.
- Add carrot and onion to the bacon fat in the pot, cook until al dente. Remove carrot and bacon from the pot, save.
- Add shredded cabbage to the remaining bacon fat, cook until tender. Add bacon, onion, carrot, vinegar, and parsley back to the pot.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.