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Cooking a turkey for the holidays is one of the biggest meal preparation projects most people tackle all year. Beyond moist flavorings, you can add any number of seasonings and rubs to the outer skin, or stuff the bird with aromatics, like sliced onions, celery, apples, sage, carrots, rosemary or anything else that strikes your fancy. The most common method, and the one you're probably familiar with, is to tent the breast with aluminum foil. To make monitoring the temperature of the bird as effortless as possible, place an oven thermometer in the thickest part of the raw thigh, away from the bone, before you stick it in the oven.
Go beyond basic brines with turkeys that are infused with the flavors of herbs, fruits and even cured meats. When we talked to Cook's Illustrated publisher Chris Kimball about the November 2007 issue of the magazine, we asked for his turkey recipe. Just the size of the bird itself can be intimidating, not to mention all of the horror stories associated with the ghosts of ruined turkeys past. In 2006, the USDA changed the rules for how long you need to cook fowl in order to kill harmful bacteria. The biggest trick in preparing turkey is to keep the breast from overcooking while the thigh and other dark meat comes up to temperature. With some spices, a reliable thermometer and a plan for keeping the breast meat from overcooking, you can prepare a perfect turkey every time.


You may not be able to get a fresh turkey from your neighbor across the street, like Kimball did, but you'll be able to cook a turkey just as moist and flavorful. Line large V-rack with heavy-duty foil and use paring knife or skewer to poke 20 to 30 holes in foil; set V-rack in large roasting pan. Using clean potholders or kitchen towels, rotate turkey breast-side up; continue to roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees and thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes longer. Believe it or not, cooking turkey is easier than it used to be, and whatever your method of choice, you can prepare a bird that tastes and looks great every time. When you add flavor with moisture, you help to increase the chances that the breast meat will stay nice and juicy through the cooking process.
According to current guidelines, turkey should attain an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.8889 degrees Celsius). Adding moisture to the raw turkey, as with injecting and brining, helps, but you'll also have to employ a cooking strategy that protects the breast from drying out.
Raising the temperature when the bird first goes in the oven can help partially seal in the juices too. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends thawing the bird either in the refrigerator (one day for every four to five pounds), immersed in cold water (30 minutes per pound), or in the microwave according to the manufacturer's instructions. You can add juices by injecting the turkey with a mixture of ingredients, like butter, water and honey.


The one exception to this is when you can effectively seal the bird so moisture can't escape, as with deep-frying.
Another option is to start the bird with the breast side down and then flip it after an hour [source: USDA]. Leave your masterpiece undisturbed for 20 to 25 minutes to redistribute the juices before carving. Set turkey breast-side down on prepared V-rack; brush back with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Be sure to take them out when you prep the bird.Don't Stuff the Bird - Stuffing the turkey is a time honored tradition, but it also makes it harder to cook a succulent bird when you have to cook it long enough to heat the stuffing, too. Any of these methods will yield a moist bird if you take the time to deal with one of the biggest challenges involved in preparing a whole turkey, uneven cooking [source: USDA]. If these options seem like too much work, you can always just slather some herbed butter under the skin around the breasts and anywhere else you can reach.



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