We all know around the holidays is a crazy time of the year, especially if you are the one hosting. There is little time to spare between setting up decorations, tidying up the house, and organizing seating and place settings. Yet, we still have to find time to peel potatoes, stuff the turkey, cut up carrots, boil the turnip, bake the pies, render the cranberry sauce, and whatever else is a staple on the dinner table for such occasions. Even once everything is prepped and the turkey is in the oven, you have to remember to go back and baste the turkey every 20 minutes to keep it from going dry! So, as you continue to organize or guests start arriving, you are constantly getting interrupted and running to the kitchen, spending precious time basting, to make sure the turkey is the star of the meal. Luckily, I have a solution for this!
I know a lot of people that will wrap the turkey with bacon while it roasts in the oven to help keep the meat moist, but I am that weirdo that really doesn't like bacon. Plus, I would rather avoid the extra fat and calories with my turkey and gobble up all the desserts. Instead, I let the turkey baste the breast constantly, all on its own! I cook my turkey upside down!
Before you go saying, "What? You really are weird!" hear me out. The white meat in the breasts is the first part that dries out and needs the most attention while roasting. When traditionally roasting a turkey, the breasts are the part left in the open and exposed while the thighs are sitting in the juices while it cooks. Why should the spine and the thighs get all the extra moisture? Those are not the parts that most people prefer. So flip it over and give the breasts some love, let it bathe in the juice while slowly roasting, and have the fat on the spine render down and baste itself with juices and seasonings on the way down into the bottom of the roasting pan.
When prepping my turkey I usually rinse it out and check that all the organs have been removed. Sometimes I stuff it with my grandma's recipe for sausage and bread stuffing, but for the most part, we skip the stuffing step. Then place the turkey breast side down into my big roasting pan. I add a little bit of water, throw my choice of seasonings on top, and surround the bird with some veggies before throwing it in the over at 325F.
Generally, you are supposed to cook a turkey for about 15 minutes per pound, but I would only use this as a guideline, I would never rely on timing for any kind of poultry. Some people are really good at using a thermometer to check internal temperatures, I'm not very good at this method though. If you choose to use a thermometer to make sure your turkey is cooked through, you should have an internal temperature of 180F if the turkey is stuffed or 170F if it is not. I on the other hand rely on my sense of touch, I poke the meat and can tell by the density or the amount I have to push on the meat for how done it is. This is my method for cooking almost any type of meat, and is something that requires a lot of practice to perfect, so feel free to try it, but please don't rely on this method until you have done it thousands of times. Once the turkey is cooked, I open the lid and leave the pan to rest for at least 10 minutes. This allows the meat to constrict slightly and hold in all the juices. This is the same for cooking any type of meat but is most popular with cooking a really good steak. Then I transfer the bird onto my big cutting board, spine side down, to start breaking down. Don't worry if carving a turkey is not high on your talent list because usually, a knife is not even necessary. You can just take your fingers or a fork, place it on top of the breastbone and pull down slightly and the breast should fall right off. You can now choose to cut it up or just shred it for the platter. The legs and thighs will take a little bit more pressure to pull off due to the hip joint but should still only need a fork to pull the meat from the bones and place it on a platter.
The veggies from the turkey can be added to the platter if some people want or can be set aside with the bones to make a batch of bone broth either the next day or throw in the freezer to do next time you have a few hours to simmer a pot. If you have a little one like us who loves food but is lacking teeth, you can squish or chop up the veggies for an easy meal for them. Since the veggies are cooked in the broth, the veggies may have lost some of their original nutrition but they will have managed to pick up other nutrients from the broth in the roasting pan.
I really hope this helps make your next big turkey dinner a little more relaxed than usual and still have a tasty meal at the end!
For those of you that want to know how I usually season the spine/thighs of my turkey, I usually use:
- Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Italian Seasoning
- Our family spice blend (paprika, chili powder, salt, coriander, garlic, sugar, curry powder, dry mustard, black pepper, basil, thyme, cumin, cayenne)
For veggies, I will usually add large chunks of:
If the turkey is extremely lean, I will add broth to the roasting pan instead of water or add a small amount of chicken bouillon to the water for extra flavour.