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Wednesday 22 November 2017

Turkey - a foolproof guide - perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas

Thanksgiving in the United States is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, while in Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated the second Monday in October. With US Thanksgiving so near, and Christmas next month, I thought why not do a post about Turkey, as it really is the go-to choice of food (with most of us) for these two very special occasions. In fact turkey has become the traditional Thanksgiving fare because at one time it was a rare treat. During the 1830s, an eight- to ten-pound bird cost a day’s wages. Even though turkeys are affordable today, they still remain a celebratory symbol of bounty. Did you know that, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin ate roast turkey in foil packets for their first meal on the Moon!
Without further ado ... here is everything you may need to know, to make sure this year's Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey is the tastiest yet.

Time for turkey

Be a sea of calm among your family and friends this Thanksgiving or Christmas Day. Have no chaos or last minute mishaps ... concentrate by getting your timings spot on. If a mishap should happen do not worry, you may wish to consider pouring out another glass of everyone's favourite drink and then just carry on, you will get there in the end!

The technical bit...

What size to buy
2-2.5kg serves 4-6
3kg serves 6-7
3.5kg serves 7-8
4-4.5kg serves 8-10
5-5.5kg serves 10-12
6-6.5kg serves 12-15

Choose the best
As is the case with all meat, turkey should be bought from a source that you trust - a good supermarket, local butcher, farmers' market or shop, or a website mail order company. Of those five sources, the last four are perhaps more likely to be able to tell you the most about the turkey - where it came from and how it was reared. Trace-ability like that will give you assurance that the turkey has been humanely treated while alive; the higher the standard of welfare by which a turkey was reared, the better the quality of the meat.

Organic turkey is the most expensive, as the most stringent farming standards will have been adhered to at all stages of the animal's life, including being allowed to roam outside during the day and being fed a mainly organic diet. As they are allowed to mature slowly their flesh is firm and flavourful, though, because they have had lots of exercise during their lives, they may be less plump than indoor-reared birds.

Free-range turkeys should have had some access to the open air and are usually cheaper than organic.

Battery (or 'factory') reared turkey are the most commonly available kind. They are rarely labelled as such, but the low price is a giveaway and can help make turkey more affordable.

Whole birds should be roasted. Other portions are also available (either skin on or off, on the bone or boneless), including breast joints (roast), crown joints (the bird without its legs and wings, also good for roasting), breast steaks, escalope's (very thin steaks of turkey breast, good for pan-frying) and drumsticks (roast or braise).

Whichever breed or cut you go for, choose turkey that is plump and well-rounded, with clear, soft and evenly coloured skin. Avoid those that have been unevenly plucked.

Store it

Put fresh turkey in the fridge as soon as you get it home. Take off all the wrappings, then wipe it all over (and inside the cavities) with kitchen paper. If it has come with giblets (the neck, gizzard, heart and liver) these should be removed and kept in a covered bowl in the fridge.

Put the turkey on a tray or a plate wide and deep enough to contain any blood or juice that might seep out. Cover loosely with foil. Make sure the turkey doesn't touch any other food in the fridge that's to be eaten raw, or meat that is already cooked.

Once a frozen turkey has defrosted, store it in the fridge straight away, as above, unless you are going to cook it immediately.

Whole birds and pieces of turkey will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. Minced turkey should be cooked within 24 hours of purchase. Giblets can be used to make gravy and stock (but leave the liver out, as it can create quite a bitter taste) or stuffing, and should be cooked within 2 days of purchase.

Fresh or frozen?
Frozen birds are generally better value, but if you are a perfectionist, or are looking for a particular breed, go for fresh. See the guide below for defrosting your frozen turkey, or if opting for fresh, bring to room temperature before cooking by removing from the fridge an hour or more ahead.

Prepare it
If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure you allow enough time for it to defrost - it won't cook properly unless it is thoroughly defrosted at the start of cooking.

Take off all the wrappings, put on a tray or plate wide and deep enough to contain any blood or juice that might seep out, cover loosely with foil and leave in the fridge or in a cool room. For guidance on defrosting times, see below.

After the turkey is defrosted, remove any giblets, check that there are no ice crystals inside the cavity and pat dry with kitchen paper both outside and in.

If desired, certain cuts of fresh or defrosted turkey can be marinated (for a minimum of 4 hours) before cooking, to add flavour and moisture and to tenderise a little further - slash the skin a couple of times to help the marinade penetrate further and keep covered in a glass or ceramic dish in the fridge.

Before it goes in the oven, turkey should be at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge (1 hour for a whole turkey; 30 minutes for a cut) before cooking. Keep it covered, in a cool place.

Thawing your turkey
Your stuffing can be prepared ahead, but don't stuff the bird until it is about to be cooked. Only stuff the neck cavity, never the body cavity (as it will not cook through). This can be filled with sprigs of fresh herbs and slices of lemon or onion to infuse the meat with extra flavours.

Weight: 2.25kg - Thaw in fridge 27 hrs - Thaw in cool room 9 hrs
Weight: 3-3.5kg - Thaw in fridge 42 hrs - Thaw in cool room 12-14 hrs
Weight: 4.5-5.5kg - Thaw in fridge 66 hrs - Thaw in cool room 18-22 hrs
Weight: 6.75-7.5kg - Thaw in fridge 90 hrs - Thaw in cool room 27-30 hrs

A good roasting

The traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas bird, turkey is good to eat all year round, though is only readily available as portions much of the year. It has all the nutritional plus points of chicken, but with a slightly lower fat content. This can mean the flesh may be on the dry side. Counteract this with frequent basting during roasting or by marinading cuts before cooking them. Never eat raw turkey, and always thoroughly wash your hands, utensils and cutting board as soon as you've cut or handled raw turkey.

Cook it
Set your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. For accurate timing, always weigh your turkey after it has been stuffed. If it's very large, you may need to use bathroom scales.

The latest advice from the British Turkey Information Service is that if the turkey is over 4kg, calculate 20 minutes per kg + 90 minutes. If the bird is under 4kg, calculate 20 minutes per kg + 70 minutes. To test if it's done, make sure the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh where it meets the body. If not, put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes, then test again.

When is it done?

The best way to tell if your turkey is cooked is by using a digital cooking thermometer. When cooked, turkey thighs should read 80C, breasts 75C. Always double-check by sticking the probe in several different spots within the thigh or breast, to find the lowest reading. If returning to the oven, allow 10-15 minutes, then test again until the correct temperature is reached.

Without a thermometer, the classic way to test is to push a spoon under the turkey leg so that it pierces the skin (or use a skewer), and inspect the juices that collect in the spoon. The juices should be pale gold and clear; if there are traces of blood, return to the oven as above.

Resting time
It is essential to rest your turkey for 30-45 minutes before carving (the temperature will continue to rise, but there’s no need to test). Put the bird in a warm place, tented with foil. It won’t get cold – but it will become juicier, and easier to carve.

Try chicken, goose or duck.

How to Carve a Turkey
You can watch a video - How to Carve a Turkey here

The above taken from words here and here

I hope you may have found this helpful, but please if you have any hints or tips do please share them in the comments...

If you should be looking for alternative Vegetarian and Vegan Thanksgiving / Christmas recipes have a look here please note not all shown in the link are low carb!

This blog brings a variety of articles and recipe ideas, and it is important to note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.

All the best Jan


Carol Blackburn said...

Loads of great information for those new to this turkey cooking business. I'm cooking this year after not cooking for about 5 years. Thanks for the refresher course. And if you are one to celebrate this holiday -

Tom said...

...I'm looking forward to turkey tomorrow!

Jo said...

Lots of helpful information there. We usually have a breast joint or a crown, along with a joint of beef on Christmas Day.

Christine said...

Thanks for this useful info Jan!

Valerie-Jael said...

Your blog regularly has me craving food! This looks soooo good. Hugs, Valerie

eileeninmd said...

Hello, a very timely post on Turkey. I will be cooking one tomorrow for my family.

Thanks for the info and sharing this post. Have a happy day!

Iris Flavia said...

Oh, that is a lot of work!
My Mum used to make goose for Christmas (we don´t celebrate Thanksgiving over here), hmmm, sooo yummy.
I don´t know if you get turkey as a whole bird here. It´s not a German dish, I suppose. I´ve never had one at least.

William Kendall said...

I tend to be indifferent to turkey for such occasions- I'd much rather have a pot roast or ham. Maybe it's just that some of the turkey meat seems to take forever to chew.

happyone said...

What a beautiful turkey.
I'm not making a turkey this year for Thanksgiving, we're having pot roast!!

Conniecrafter said...

It is always a fun experience to see how my turkey turns out on Thanksgiving, since we got our new fridge it seems to take longer for things to thaw also :( I didn't know until about 3 years ago that you are to let the turkey sit before carving, that makes it easier to prepare those last minute items I like to put in the oven like rolls :) I know bad thing but you have to have them on Thanksgiving :)

Elephant's Child said...

Even at Christmas we rarely had turkey when I was growing up. And these days with only one meat eater to feed, a turkey breast will be more than enough.

Lisabella Russo said...

I didn't know that about the astronauts! Thanks for the interesting information.

Martha said...

This is great info, Jan. Thanks for sharing it!

Revrunner said...

I am a sea of calm. I am a sea of calm. I am a sea of calm. Aayyee!! said...

Beautiful turkey !!

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Thanks Jan. I have to confess I've never attempted to roast a turkey but I did have a turkey sandwich for lunch today ☺

Gloria Baker said...

I love turkey ususally we make for Christmas, I love this looks wonderful!

Magic Love Crow said...

Great post Jan! Thank you!