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It’s 80 degrees out and Thanksgiving is next week. No matter how many years I live in Los Angeles (13 so far), I will never get used to a warm weather turkey-day. It just doesn’t make sense to eat things like mashed potatoes, gravy, creamy vegetable gratins and pumpkin pie while wearing a tank top and flip-flops. But the holiday stops for no (wo)man so like it or not, it’s time to talk turkey.

Every year around this time the panicked emails start. Is it necessary to brine the bird? What do you do if your turkey is still frozen Thanksgiving morning? How big of a turkey do I need to buy? How can you tell when the turkey is done? Never has a humble bird caused so much culinary stress. But no need to worry! If you’re not among the lucky few coming to our Thanksgiving 101 class, we have decided to share our list of important turkey facts here. Most importantly, remember that this is a holiday about sharing food with the people you love and being taking a moment to be grateful — no one will really care if the turkey is a little dry. The real secret? Always make lots of extra gravy — it can cover up any Thanksgiving meal mistake.

 

TURKEY 101
• Get fresh! Frozen birds tend to dry out quicker during cooking. Organic, Free-Range and Kosher
turkeys are all great – but the most important thing is that it’s fresh.
• If you do get frozen, defrost for 4 days in the refrigerator OR submerge in a sink of cold water
(never warm or hot!) and let soak for about 12 hours, changing the water every hour.
• When buying a turkey, plan for 1 pound per person – this leaves ample leftovers.
• Don’t cook a bird over 18 pounds – it takes too long! If you need more turkey for a larger crowd,
buy an additional turkey breast (or two) and a couple turkey legs. These will roast in about 1-2
hours and can be done the day before – roast them and let rest and cool; then refrigerate until the
next day. Let them come back to room temperature and then carve the breast and place in a pan
with a little bit of turkey stock and cover with foil. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
• The ONLY way to tell for sure if your turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer – don’t trust the
red “pop-up” buttons! Remove your turkey from the oven when the white meat is at 165 degrees
and the dark meat is at 170 degrees.
• Approximate roasting times for un-stuffed turkeys at 325 degrees:
o 10 – 12 lbs – 3 hours
o 12 – 14 lbs – 3 – 3 ½ hours
o 14 – 18 lbs – 3 ½ – 4 ½ hours
o 18 – 20 lbs – 4 ½ – 4 ¾ hours
• ALWAYS let your turkey rest, tented with foil, for at least 20 minutes before carving – this will
help the juices stay inside the meat and make for easier carving.
• Carving 101 – step by step, here’s how it’s done:
o First remove the twine and ties and stuffing (if you used).
o Bend the leg back at the joint and cut to remove. Repeat for the other leg.
o Make a large cut at the base of the breast, parallel to the table.
o Make thin slices down the breast, working from the outside towards the bone. Repeat for
the other breast.
o Bend the thigh back, revealing the joint and cut to remove. Repeat for the other thigh.
Then cut off dark meat and add to the platter.
o Cut off wings.
o Save the carcass for the best turkey soup!
Happy Thanksgiving!!

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