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Tips/advice on how to cook a turkey?

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by chermoni on October 09, 2006 07:54 AM
I'm thinking about actually cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year but have never actually cooked a turkey before and I'm afraid of undercooking or drying it out to be unedible by over cooking it. We always used to go to a restaurant on Thanksgiving but that restaurant is now closed. I know, sounds lazy, but it was SO good and they did it right. Anyway, please help! [dunno]

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by afgreyparrot on October 09, 2006 08:09 AM
Reynold's Oven Cooking Bags. [thumb]

They have 2 sizes...one is Turkey Size.
The directions are in the package, how long to cook per pound. Plus, the bags are transparent so you can see when the little thing pops up in the turkey.

Trust me...you can't go wrong with these bags.
They make anything you cook in them very tender and juicy.

Plus...I might have my GardenHelper Turkey Hotline again this year if you have any trouble... [lala]

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by ChristinaC on October 09, 2006 08:13 AM
quote:
Plus...I might have my GardenHelper Turkey Hotline again this year if you have any trouble...
I knew I could count on you Cindy. I don't know what I would have done last year without you. [Wink] [Big Grin]

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by ChristinaC on October 09, 2006 08:15 AM
Chermoni
I have a lot of make ahead dishes that I could share with you. They are delicious and the bonus is they can all be done in advance so all you would have to do is put them in the oven. [thumb]

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by chermoni on October 09, 2006 10:49 AM
That would be great! [flower] I'm a little nervous about cooking a turkey dinner and I'm trying to figure out what to make and how ahead of time.

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Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery. Today is a gift, that's why it's called the present.
by SpringFever on October 09, 2006 08:45 PM
Turkey is the easiest meal you could make Cher!
How many are you serving? How big is the Bird?

Put it in the oven covered with aluminum foil at 300 for about 4 hours ( I always buy big turkeys)... and baste it every hour.. take the foil off and finish cooking it so it gets nice and brown.. It takes longer to cook if you stuff it..
Make sure you fallow the directions on the Turkey... and dont forget to take out the Giblet pack that is inside!

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by joclyn on October 10, 2006 06:24 AM
turkey's are really easy to do - stuffed or not...

do you want to stuff it? or cook stuffing on the side? i've got a good recipe for it [Smile]

what size bird? and how many people will be there for dinner? are you going to make everything yourself or have others bring a dish?

if you're going to do it all yourself - there are plenty of things you can make ahead of time - and then just reheat the day of...

let us know...i'm sure we'll have a TON of ideas and recipes for ya!!
by chermoni on October 10, 2006 07:37 AM
I'm making dinner for just the 5 of us. My twin step daughters will want to help I'm sure. I haven't decided what size bird yet because I just don't know and I also don't know if I want to stuff it. I think I do. My boyfriend also asked for candied yams but he said you can buy them in a can? That just sounds wrong to me. We also want to have good cranberry sauce to I was going to look up a recipe on how to make some because, again, the canned stuff just seems wrong. Other than that we haven't decided what else to make other than pumpkin pie. I'm a great baker so I'm not worried about the pie. I'm a fairly decent cook it's just that most of the things I cook are italian dishes where I've come up with my own recipes. And I know this sounds silly but what do I baste the turkey with? Is it just water or butter?

Anyway, thanks for all the advice and willingness to help me out. It's much appreciated. [grin]

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Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery. Today is a gift, that's why it's called the present.
by joclyn on October 10, 2006 12:29 PM
for 5 people (some of which are kids) a 12-15 pounder should be more than enough - you'll still have enough for some leftovers, too.

my mom (who didn't like to cook and wasn't too good at it, lol) always used the frozen candied yams/apples - very quick to make (can be done in the microwave even quicker than the oven). so i've just followed suit because they taste good and are convenient. i want to say it's mrs. pauls brand...i don't think that's quite right though - i'll look in the store tomorrow for the exact name.

i've also gotten a bunch of sweet potatoes, baked them a day ahead and then mashed them with some butter and cinnamon - easy to reheat in the microwave. you can throw some mini marshmallows in (and lightly mix) right before you put it on the table (the kids will like that [Smile] ) the canned yams have a recipe on the side to make them candied - from experience, the frozen stuff is much easier and tastier.

actually, if you want regular mashed potatoes, you can do them a day ahead too.

something different that i've done is cook pierogi as the 'potato' dish...we're polish, so everyone likes 'em...

before going to all the trouble to make fresh cranberry sauce - make sure everyone likes the whole berries. kids tend to prefer the jellied stuff out of the can (ocean spray is the best. they also have a whole berry version which has some jelly with whole berries mixed in - might be a nice compromise).

i've got a good recipe for sausage stuffing - if you want it, let me know and i'll pm it to you. i also have a good recipe for coleslaw - it takes a while to do it...is definitely worth it, though!!

if you're going to stuff the bird - make sure you take out that little packet of giblets first!! also, the neck is usually in there too (or up the tush end). some people like to eat the giblets (liver, etc) so you can cook them seperately (slow-boil them). you can also use them when making your gravy.

don't stuff the bird so full that it's completely packed...you want the stuff to cook!! i usually do it just over 3/4's full - if i have any left over, i just put it in a casserole dish and cook it seperately (covered so it doesn't dry out). i'll take some of the juices from the bird pan and pour them over what's in the casserole dish to add some of the flavor, too.

regardless of whether you stuff or not, to get the bird nice and golden brown, use a small amount of oil on a paper towel and smear it over the top of the breast and the legs.

put the bird in a pan big enough for it! use a rack to set the bird on and put enough water in the bottom to just cover it ( a few cups will do it). keep the bird covered for the first few hours and then, the last 45 minutes is all you need, uncovered, for it to get nice and browned. you shouldn't need to add more water - as the bird cooks, it will give off some liquid...periodically (every hour) baste with the water/juices. it's done when the little temp thing pops up (if it has one). if it doesn't have one, put a fork into the thickest part of the leg as well as the spot on the breast behind the thigh - if the juices run clear, it's done.

if you don't have pan with a lid, you can use tin foil - spray it with some pam so it doesn't stick to the bird. also, you can 'tent' it to keep it off the bird. i've used those cooking bags too...they work terrific! only thing is the skin doesn't get to crusty and i like to munch on it, so i don't use them too often...

i always cook at 275 until i can smell it cooking - that's about 1 1/2 hours - then i raise the temp to 325 for a couple of hours and then turn it down to 275 again for the rest of the time. in more than 20 years, i've never had a dried out turkey.

i usually do a 12-15 pounder and i stuff it. takes 4-5 hours.

if you get a frozen turkey let it defrost in the fridge for at least 3 days. there may still be some frozen areas...run cold water into the carcass to remove ice crystals so you can get the bag of giblets loose. actually, a slightly frozen bird will come out juicier.

there's also the school of thought about cooking it upside down first and then turning it over to have a really moist turkey. i've done that a couple of times and it really does make a difference! it's hard to turn it over when it's hot and the breast side gets squished, so, if looks/presentation are important, i wouldn't do this on the first time doing the dinner!! wait until next year when all they care about is getting to the really tasty bird that they know you've got there [Big Grin]

the usual vegy's are easy enough to do...i always make the pumpkin pie myself, too...
by Tonya on October 10, 2006 10:07 PM
I always cook my turkey breast side down until the last little bit and then turn to "toast" the breast. It comes out VERY juicy and yummy.

I smear butter all over the bird and sprinkle with Koshe salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I follow the cooking directions on the bird(temp, time etc) and cover with aluminum foil until I turn it over to brown the skin. I baste every hour.

I am posting a separate thread about my sweet potatoes.....YUMMMMMM!!

Good luck! I remember how nervous I was on my first Thanksgiving! You will do great!!

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by chermoni on October 12, 2006 11:18 AM
Sorry I haven't responded, kids take up much of the computer time when they're here. Anyway I just wanted to thank everyone for all of their advice. I don't feel so nervous about making a turkey anymore and a co worker gave me a coupon for those reynolds bags. [flower]

This weekend when I have time I'll make some seperate posts with some of my italian dishes and my famous cheesecake. [grin]

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Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery. Today is a gift, that's why it's called the present.

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