Cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving can be really intimidating, especially if it’s your first time. With so many people relying on you to make the most important part of the meal, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
But even though the pressure is on, cooking a proper Thanksgiving turkey doesn’t have to be the end of the world. In fact, roasting a turkey is pretty easy to do as long as you avoid a few common rookie mistakes.
If you’re in charge of cooking the Thanksgiving turkey this year, don’t panic! We’ve got you covered with 10 useful tips on what not to do so you can host the best holiday dinner ever. To learn what to do and what to avoid, here are 10 things you should never do when cooking a Thanksgiving turkey:
1. Don’t leave your turkey out to thaw.
Many people thaw their frozen meats on the kitchen counter in an effort to thaw it more quickly. But leaving meat out at room temperature can encourage bacterial growth, which can be very dangerous. For safer thawing, place your frozen turkey in the refrigerator so that it can thaw out overnight.
2. Don’t cook stuffing inside your turkey.
If you’re thinking of cooking your stuffing inside your turkey, think again. Doing so can increase your risk of developing a foodborne illness, which is the easiest way to ruin the fun. To avoid harm, cook your turkey and your stuffing separately.
3. Don’t brine your turkey for too long.
Brining is a great way to impart moisture and flavor to your turkey. But letting it sit in the brining liquid for too long can turn it into a salty, spongy mess. Ensure your turkey is moist, tender, and flavorful by brining it for no longer than 24 hours, turning it every 6 to 8 hours for best results.
4. Don’t roast your turkey at too high of a temperature.
Roasting your turkey at too high of a temperature can quickly dry it out. For juicy, tender cuts of meat, try cooking your bird at 325°F or lower so that it can better maintain its moisture.
5. Don’t forget to remove the giblets.
Before you cook your turkey, be sure to remove the bag of giblets located inside its cavity. If you don’t, not only will your giblets dry out and burn, but they’ll also ruin the taste of your turkey, too!
6. Don’t rely on a timer.
Many people use pop-up timers to remind them when their turkey is finished cooking. But timers aren’t always reliable as they can be affected by placement, temperature, and even humidity. To guarantee your turkey is evenly and thoroughly cooked, use a meat thermometer for an accurate reading of its internal temperature.
7. Don’t let your turkey sit out for too long.
After you serve the turkey, be sure to put it into the refrigerator within 2 hours. Leaving it out for longer than that can introduce harmful bacteria that can cause you and your guests to become ill.
8. Don’t place your frozen turkey in hot oil.
If you like to deep fry your turkey, make sure that it’s completely thawed out before you drop it into the hot oil. When ice and water come in contact with the hot oil, it can cause it to splatter everywhere. So to avoid burning down the house, always thaw your turkey first, then fry it.
9. Don’t overstuff your turkey.
Filling the cavity of your turkey with fresh herbs, garlic, or lemon is a fantastic way to add flavor. But if you overstuff your bird, air can’t circulate effectively, which leads to unevenly cooked meat. Always leave plenty of room for air to roam freely inside your turkey so you can have a perfectly cooked Thanksgiving dinner.
10. Don’t carve it too soon.
After you take your turkey out of the oven, you might be tempted to cut into it and start eating. However, letting your turkey rest for approximately 20 minutes allows its juices to redistribute throughout, leading to a more moist and flavorful turkey. So resist the urge to dig in right away, and instead, let your turkey rest before you slice it up.
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