Eat a dozen-plus organic turkeys and you probably want to eat more than the requisite one or two for a family. So whether you’re serving a crowd, or you’re a baker, good cooks or people who appreciate casual fun, you’ll need to understand the ins and outs of turkey.
First, the good news: you don’t need to cook your turkey to any healthful degree to enjoy it. Since the cooking process burns the fat around the skin, organic turkeys, and all birds, can cook to well-done with no ill effects on your health. Although fast-cooking turkeys – think roasting – can always overcook if you don’t follow the recommended cooking time (the key: always check the temperature of the internal fat layer before cooking, whether on the oven rack or on the hot surface).
That said, there are some considerations that may change a traditional holiday meal. For starters, turkey needs about a week’s supply of seasoning before you cook it. Toss a 4-6oz bottle of seasoned salt with the fresh baking bird, plus about 3oz of minced fresh rosemary (a small bunch will do). If the turkey is 12 to 16oz it can squeeze a jumbo 12oz-plus can of seasoning.
Most importantly, don’t worry about the temperature inside. You can always replace the oven racks when the turkey is browned and then use a turkey roasting pan that fits within reach to make sure the proper temperature reaches the internal fleshy part.
Here’s a slightly scary fact: if you’re serving a smaller party of family and friends, cook it in a shallow, cover-molded casserole dish, and make a large cut in the bottom of the dish (it’s the same shape as the roasting rack). Use a piping bag to insert a neck tie (based on a supermarket basting rack that can be an appealing option) across the head and into the cavity. Use the turkey broiler to roast the whole bird for about about 15 minutes. During the last 5 minutes or so, keep the oven temperature around 350ºF. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest about 20 to 30 minutes in the dish.
Then, for your main course, carve the turkey:
Use a carving knife, and cut off the smaller legs and thighs and rinse them lightly with water.
Remove the wings from the cavity.
On the legs, rub salt in the cavity and use an herb butter.
On the breasts, melt butter and brush it over the flesh.
Remove the rind from the turkey and use a small spoon to slice it thinly across the white meat. In the same bowl, brush your hands with a little butter and put them in the cavity, using the back of the spoon. Just brush the meat with the butter until you reach the legs and thighs.
In a slow pan, lightly oil the bottom of the pan and then place the turkey in the pan. Cook the turkey for about 3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on the size. If you’re using a slow broiler, place the oven rack in the pan. Allow the turkey to cook for about 20 minutes, but don’t let it rest if you haven’t cooked it longer. Leave it warm in the pan. Serve with a mustard sauce, boiled potatoes, more turkey, or your favorite holiday side dishes. Or just enjoy a plate of bratwurst at the next fast-food drive-thru!