Frying, smoking, grilling and baking are just some of the few ways to cook turkeys for the traditional Thanksgiving meal. There are also just as many ways to turn your bird into an overdone pile of sawdust or an underdone bird that poisons dinner guests with salmonella. After all, you can’t be the “hostest with the mostest” if you single-highhandedly cause the plague.
Every year, certain cooking questions arise; to stuff or not to stuff? Do I baste; if so how often? What spices should be used? How long does Tom cook for and at what temperature? Cooking turkeys should not be that difficult. It’s only a bird; think of it as a really big chicken if it helps.
For whatever reason, the cooking of turkey strikes fear in the hearts of many would-be chefs. Perhaps it’s our fear of disappointing 20 guests and family with a bad dinner. Think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when Chevy Chase goes to carve the bird and it deflates. Perhaps it’s the fear of poisoning them. I bet Betty Crocker never felt my fear.
I think my anxiety over cooking the bird stems from my childhood. Yes, I am going to take this moment to blame my parents. Well, my mom in particular. After all, dad had football to watch. I don’t think of my mom’s bad turkeys as failure, just as experience so I will know what not to do. This grasshopper has watched and learned over the years. I am willing to share the knowledge with you, but must swear you to secrecy. Mom cannot catch wind of this. I don’t want to be responsible for her having a fit of the vapors — you remember.
Things I learned from mom:
All ovens were not created equally, nor do they heat evenly. This can result in a poorly timed exit for the bird.
Always have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen or or a big box of baking soda in case you set the turkey aflame — twice. Also recommended, 911 on speed dial.
When the little red thing pops up, it really means it’s done. Really, no need to keep cooking it — “just to be sure.” Only to wonder why there is a pile of sawdust on your guests’ plate.
Perhaps staying home while said turkey is in the oven instead of visiting the neighbors while the men folk watch football at home. If this happens, call your son-in-law and beg him to check on the bird and make sure it is not on fire.
Thomas Edison said he did not consider his flops, failures, just ways not to do them. Same thing for my mom and now me. We both make an awesome bird. Why? Somebody, somewhere, told mom a trick — bacon. Yes, that lovely, salty and ohhh, sooo bad for you meat. I know, bacon can cure most anything but you’re probably wondering how it can cure dry turkey. Well, you just drape that bird with the bacon like it’s wearing a dress. The fat from the bacon bastes the bird and you never have to touch it again.
My oven cooks my birds at 350 degrees at 20 minutes per pound. However, watch for the little red thing to pop up. Better yet get a meat thermometer and make sure the thickest part of the thigh is 165 degrees (per Chef Mac at The Palms of Sebring).
Keep the phone handy, you may need that speed dial as fights break out over the bacon.
I have been known to make-up words from time to time, sometimes without meaning to, just ask my editors. Well, everyone has heard of Turducken, a turkey, duck and chicken concoction that is cooked together. Talk about cooking anxiety, three layers of meat? I’m feeling the vapors coming on as we speak. I digress, I have given the world the Turbacon. You’re welcome.
If you have ignored my advice grasshopper, and now you face a dry turkey, just remember, gravy hides a multitude of sins. Gravy that’s has a touch of bacon flavoring is even better.
Bacon is my superpower. What’s yours?
Kim Leatherman is a staff writer with the Highlands News-Sun. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org