Thanksgiving Day is filled with choices from what’s cooking, to how it’s cooked. Let’s take look at the cooking styles for the turkey. There’s our traditional oven-roasted turkey, fried turkey has become popular and so has grilling, smoking the turkey, and even rotisserie turkey.
In our house I will admit that latter four seem to get the guys involved in this day’s food preparation. It gives them a chance to show off some of those well executed BBQ skills. It also takes one item off of my list to prepare. If I’m cooking, oven roasting is my choice of method and basting the turkey for several hours while it’s cooking will yield an excellent piece of showmanship.
My brother-in-law prefers deep frying and I will admit that he makes it looks easy considering that there are some precautions when using this method of cooking. There are some advantages; it cooks much faster than roasting.
Grilling, roasting and smoking all share a combination of processes; that they are cooked in a kettle-style grill with a hood or chamber door. We’ve used a Webber for our grilled turkey and I even learned to use this cooking method. You need to get the coals fired up, along with the wood chips used in adding the smoke flavor.
Preparing a Turkey
For the newbies, be sure to check your turkey’s body cavity and its neck area. There may be tidbits hidden in there and first timers due to nervousness or just plain don’t know could miss them, I did. They are called giblets and in case you do miss these hidden treasures, don’t worry they cook along with your turkey and won’t affect the taste of your first dinner, so not to fret.
Keep these treasures because they make a great broth for your bread stuffing. Check the packages from the cavities; you should have the neck, the heart, kidney and liver. Put them all into a pot of water, enough to cover the ingredients; a whole onion quartered, a couple of chopped stalks of celery, 2 carrots chopped and salt and pepper. Bring it to boil, then simmer and set it aside and let it cool.
To Stuff or not to Stuff
Stuffing options are abundant and depending on your taste and willingness to experience, stuffing recipes can be endless. If you’re going to stuff your turkey, plan your cooking time because it will take longer to cook your stuffed turkey, compared to an unstuffed turkey.
Good kitchen rules suggest that you should stuff the turkey just prior to cooking. Be sure to stuff both the body and the neck cavities. If you have more stuffing left, put it in a baking dish and cook it in the oven with the turkey or you can cook it alongside the turkey in the same tray. If you’re undecided on a stuffing, here’s my first stuffing recipe, it’s a no fail and easy to make.
The night before is when all the preparation begins for this turkey dish and we each have our own tradition for preparing this bird. Some will brine in a salt water solution which adds addition salt seasoning to the turkey’s meat. There are also marinades that provide different flavors to the turkey from herbs to juices, liqueurs and beers.
I keep it rather simple with a basting of olive oil, some butter and garlic pieces tucked under the skin. Cover the turkey and let it rest overnight. You can make the stuffing the night before so that it’s ready to be stuffed into the turkey the next morning.
- Broth from the boiled giblets
- 1 Onion – chopped
- 1 cup Celery – chopped
- Sage to taste – if you can taste it in the bread mixture, it’s perfect.
- 1 loaf bread – toast it or not, it’s your choice.
- Salt and pepper
- 1 egg
- Drain the broth made from boiling the turkey giblets. Set the giblets aside. Take the meat from the giblets and chop it into bite sizes.
- In a separate bowl, break up the bread, add in the chopped celery, onions and egg. Pour the broth into to the bread mixture, add in the chopped giblet meat. Next season the bread mixture with sage until you can taste it in the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.
Stuff your turkey and follow the instructions on the wrappings for cooking. Happy Thanksgiving, however you choose to cook your turkey.