How to Make Crispy Turkey Skin with Juicy White Meat
Entertaining Turkey Trivia
The most majestic of all of the entertaining foods has got to be the Thanksgiving Turkey. We also find this juicy delight at our gatherings from January through December, so it is only right that turkey secrets are the topic of our best entertaining advice and top tips for this years Thanksgiving celebration. We'll start with some of the facts that will help us understand our poultry pal, the Thanksgiving Turkey.
Turkey, Turkey, and more Turkey trivia!
Turkeys have been around for 10 million years, so we can count on them being with us for quite some time to come. They originally came from Mexico and then were brought to Europe in 1519 by the Spaniards. In 1620 Pilgrims brought the turkey to America where we have made it our favorite ingredient on Thanksgiving as well as most of our holidays throughout the year.
Columbus named the turkey "tuka" believing that it was a member of the peacock family (which it is). In the language of India, tuka means peacock. The domestic and wild turkey differ considerably, as the wild version has a longer neck (for looking over things) and the breast is smaller while the meat is dark because they use their muscles more than domestic table-bred turkey's. The table-bred "tom turkey" has been bred so that the breast meat is all white meat and so large that the bird can not mate. The wild turkey is also quite smart in bird terms, just ask anyone who has tried to hunt one of these clever critters down!
That, oh so familiar, "gobble-gobble" sound is only offered up by the male or tom turkey. For those who are fond of that big yellow bird on that TV street, it took 4,000 white turkey feathers that were died yellow from one tom turkey to cover that big bird (4,000 is the number of feathers the large tom has). We can thank Charles Dickens for making the turkey our most popular entertainment dish at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was the special food item he defines in "The Christmas Story." You know, the story where the neighbor's dog's romped through the kitchen knocking over the table and steeling the turkey from the table where it was resting. I think this was just before the 'leg lamp' arrived in the large wooden crate as a prize for dad. But, I digress.., back to turkey's...
Wild turkeys can travel a flight pattern at approximately 55 miles per hour or if he chooses to he can run up to 20 miles per hour. Our friend the domestic commercial turkey can't make it off of the ground to fly at all. It will take about 80 pounds of food to raise a 30-pound bird. Consumers have been under the impression that turkeys are given steroids or hormones. In actuality, they are only given antibiotics (and only if necessary) but no steroids or hormones at all. It is simply a matter of breeding and healthy living that gives us the tasty Thanksgiving turkey attributes.
Keeping The Day Turkey SAFE!
4 Very Important "TURKEY Safety Tips"
I think any time we are contending with poultry (of any kind) safety has to be our number one concern. Handling and preparing any bird for cooking calls for hand washing, hand washing, and more hand washing. Keeping our hands very clean and bacteria free is very important. You must keep any surfaces touched by your Thanksgiving turkey or any poultry wiped down, any dishes separate, all utensils clean—even the handles of knives and tools need to be cleaned, because dishes, seasoning containers, and other items may be cross-contaminated by your hands which have been touching poultry—
Some other top advice for safe poultry preparation is as follows:
- The Collapsible Pan; Never use a disposable aluminum pan when cooking a bird over 20 pounds. The pan may collapse very easily when you remove a steaming hot Thanksgiving day turkey from the oven—even if it has handles.
- Bacteria Haven; It is never safe to place a prepared stuffed bird in the refrigerator overnight. The stuffed cavity acts as an incubator making for a perfect growing environment for bacteria. When cooked, all of the bacteria may not be killed, resulting in hundreds of cases of food poisoning annually.
- Warm and Bacteria Free?; If you have no choice but to make the bird ahead of time, keep it warm in a 200°F oven after you have completed cooking it and until you are ready to serve it. The internal temperature must never drop below 140°F , keep your Thanksgiving turkey covered in aluminum foil to prevent it from drying out.
- To Save or Not to Save (a Carcass); Never reheat a whole cooked roasted or deep-fried Thanksgiving turkey. You must remove the meat from the bones and throw away or IMMEDIATLY freeze the carcass for soup or stock.
COOKING and CARVING TOOLS
The better the pan the better the bird!
Carving is even easier using an electric knife.
Carving Your Thanksgiving Day Turkey
An EASY and QUICK CARVING LESSON (2:47 min)
SOME ENTERTAINING FUN | AWAY FROM THE BIRD
5 TIPS FOR PRE-DINNER ENTERTAINING
When we plan to serve the popular turkey dinner for a get together, we are usually responsible for the party goers nibbling desires while they wait for the meal to hit the table. This mean hors d'oeuvre, amuse-bouche and of course dipping goodies. Below you will find some very fun tips and advice for handling the pre-dinner menagerie.
- The Roll a Banana Plays- Roll whole bananas in strawberry preserves and then chopped nuts and freeze. Just before guest arrive, slice into wheels and serve on a chilled platter with tooth picks.
- Looking for That Flair- If a little pizazzis what you are looking for on your hors d'oeuvre table, try decorating then soaking sugar cubes in lemon or orange extract (the real stuff, the imitation stuff has no alcohol) they will ignite, bringing you some flaming excitement. The alcohol content is just enough to do the job.
- A Celery Color Palette- Making celery a colorful addition to a dipping tray can be a beautiful touch. Simply place the celery sticks into a glass of water with the food coloring of your choice. The celery will soak up the coloring, changing it into that shade of purple you needed to perfectly accent the table. (Also, try finger-sandwiches; they look beautiful when cream cheese filling is lightly shaded pastel using food coloring; but never color food black, that's a no-no unless it's Halloween.)
- Fondue is Really Making a Come-Back- The French showed us all about how to use old stale cheese and making it more digestible by fonduing it,...well fondue's making a come-back, but in the form of chocolate this go-round! Some of the best chocolate fondue dipping foods are, ladyfingers, maraschino cherries with the stem on, pear spears, banana chunks, and my favorite—cubes of angel food cake.
- Keepin' The Party Chillin'- When you need a big supply of ice and are worried about keeping it from melting during the party, simply place the ice into a large bowl that is placed inside another larger bowl filled with dry ice. The ice will keep chillin' for the entire party.
BACK TO THE TURKEY BIRD | ADVICE FOR THE BEST RESULTS
As a general rule, you will find one of three types of birds as marked on the packaging by your supermarket, natural, free-range and organic . To know what these ratings mean will help you decide which turkey is the best Thanksgiving turkey for your family.
- Natural- This informs you that the turkey has not been injected with an artificial moistening solution.
- Free Range-This indicates that the bird has been allowed to run around outdoors, ranging from a few seconds to several hours of exercise.
- Organic- This tells you that the bird is completely free of antibiotics.
As you decide on what rating works for you, a few other things may interest you when choosing your bird; size and sex. Young turkeys between 4-6 pounds of either sex will yield the most tender meat and can usually be prepared like chicken (by-the-way, the same rating references apply to chickens). The big turkey's we buy at the market for entertaining and holidays can get up to 40 pounds, with more muscle and less fat. These big guys won't be as juicy as the little guys, unless you cook them upside down.
If you are looking for a very tender Thanksgiving turkey (and you need to buy one of a larger size), make sure to let it sit for a while at room temperature (no more than 25 minutes) before putting it in the hot oven. Cold meat tends to cook tougher.
Help With Cooking Turkey
OH THAT "CRISPY ROASTED TURKEY SKIN!"
We all know that when it comes to a roasted Thanksgiving turkey, it is all about the crispy skin! Beautiful skin will be the result if you place a cheesecloth over the turkey. Make sure that the cheesecloth is thoroughly buttered leaving it on the roasting bird until the last 30 minutes, when you will remove it allowing the best colored skin to "crisp-up", bringing the perfect crispy Thanksgiving turkey skin we all fight for to the dinner table.
Juicy turkey meat to go with that perfect skin can take the home cook to chefly heights! The best way I have found to reach such sought glory is to soak the bird in a cold kosher salt bath for 6 hours prior to cooking it. What you end up with is a juicy moist bird like never before. As well as plumping the birds body cells, the kosher salt will add a slight yet delightful flavor to your turkey, as well as cleaning the bird of all impurities.
- make sure if you brine your bird to do this task in the refrigerator or large well-chilled cooler.
- Make sure the bird remains at 40°F.
- Kosher salt is the salt of choice by chefs.
- You can begin brining 24-hours before cooking, but keeping the turkey at 40°F is imperative.