Mamma’s Turkey Tips for Beginners (Like Me)

Photo by Cayla1 on Unsplash

 

My mom is one of those people who make amazing turkey every year for Thanksgiving.

Whenever we have potluck Thanksgiving dinners, she’s always asked to cook the turkey. Year after year. Turkey after turkey.

And it’s always so delicious! Her turkeys are moist inside, and yet crispy on the edges.

I looked forward to her turkey every Thanksgiving…. Until I got married and moved off to Idaho. I couldn’t always get home for Thanksgiving. I was faced with a real dilemma- How in the heck am I supposed to cook a turkey for my own Thanksgiving dinner??

It’s not like you can have Thanksgiving without a turkey!!

But I quickly figured out that my mom made it look much easier than it really is. My first turkey got burnt on the outside but was not fully cooked inside. My second turkey was cooked at least, but it was as dry… Like nasty wannabe jerky. Yuck.

So I finally swallowed my pride and asked my mom for help. Thanksgiving 2018 is gonna be better!!!

I told her that nobody made turkey like her and I needed some help.

Do you know what she said???

Nothing!

She just laughed!!

Yep, laughed- because her turkeys are SOOOO easy. In her loving words, “Maybe you should have your kids help you get it done right!”

Here’s what she told me, and a step by step view of how my first attempt went:

  • Buy the cheapest, fattest turkey you can find, a turkey bag, and a turkey pan.

Click the image below!

Click on the image below!

Click on the image below!

Click on the image below!

One shopping trip, everything you need. Done and done!

Oh well, you’ll also need butter, garlic salt, onion powder, and pepper. Make sure you grab those things too if you don’t have them at home!

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  • Defrost the turkey.

Most turkeys come with directions on how to defrost.

My mom recommended putting the turkey in the fridge for up to 3 days to ensure that it thaws completely or putting the turkey in a cold water bath for several hours before cooking.

In my case, I put the turkey in my sink with cold water in the morning the day before Thanksgiving. (Always clean out the sink well before putting the turkey in there!)

It took most of the day for the turkey to defrost. Then I put the turkey in the fridge overnight and it was all ready to cook Thanksgiving Day!

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  • Preheat the oven.

Just follow the directions on the package! My turkey cooked at 325 degrees.

  • Rinse the bird, removing the extras inside.

Usually there are things like the turkey neck, the heart, and the gizzard (what is that anyways??) inside the hallow of the turkey. Remove those before cooking.

My turkey had a turkey neck and a package of turkey drippings.

 

Well… at least that’s what I thought until after I cooked the turkey.

Once we cut open the turkey and started removing the meat, I found the other extras hidden inside the turkey. Just like my mom said they would be. Woops.

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  • Place the turkey bag in the disposable turkey pan, then put the bird in the bag, leaving the bag open.

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You’re all set to season the bird!

  • Sprinkle garlic salt, onion powder, and pepper generously on all surfaces of the turkey, turning the bird as you go to reach all areas.

This will add delicious flavor to the exterior of your turkey.

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My mom said the she even seasons inside the hallow of the bird sometimes! I didn’t worry about that this year. I’m just a beginner after all.

I tried to use one hand to turn the bird (not easy!) because I didn’t want to stop to wash my hands several times before touching my seasonings. Nobody wants raw turkey juices on their cooking stuff! It didn’t always work, so I did have to wash my hands a few times during this process.

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I did run into one hiccup. The first seasoning I applied to the turkey (onion powder) stuck to the turkey because the bird was moist. But the second seasoning I applied (garlic salt) didn’t stick because the onion powder was already covering the bird. I added butter flavored cooking spray to help the other seasonings stick.

 

  • Add big chunks of butter all over the top of the turkey.

Be generous- Just like Paula Deen!

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  • Tie the bag shut and place the turkey in the oven.

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I needed to adjust my racks to make the turkey fit. Make sure the plastic turkey bag does not directly touch the top or sides of the oven.

 

I will always choose a turkey with an internal thermometer that lets me know when the turkey is done cooking. That was my saving grace! I would be totally lost without that little red thermometer.

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My mom took it to the next level! She told me to turn the turkey so that the thermometer is facing the front. This makes it easy to see when your bird is done. Why didn’t I think of that??

  • Use the turkey package to determine how long the bird should cook.

My turkey was about 14 pounds. The package estimated it would take 3.5 to 4 hours to cook.

Another bit of clever ingenuity from my mom- check the bird a little earlier than the package recommends. Keep checking the bird every 15 minutes as it gets closer to the recommended time. This will ensure that the bird doesn’t stay in the oven for any extra time- which could cause it to dry out.

This tip saved me this year!

Kick back and relax because this takes a while. Or you know, slave over the rest of your Thanksgiving meal… Whatever applies to your situation. 😊

Watch for the red turkey thermometer to pop out. You’re almost done!

My turkey went into the oven at 8:20am, so I planned to start checking it at 11:20am. That’s 30 minutes sooner than the package recommended.

By some strange luck and due to my own impatience, I started checking my turkey at 10:30am instead of 11:20.

To my surprise, the turkey looked almost done!

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By 10:40, the thermometer popped and the turkey was done! That’s only 2 hours and 20 minutes of cooking time!

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Come to find out, the package on the turkey and the package on the turkey bag had different cooking instructions. The turkey bag instructions were more accurate. That’s weird…. Watch out for that when you cook this year!

  • Once the thermometer pops, cut open the top of your turkey bag.

If your turkey needs more color, allow the turkey to cook for another 15 minutes or so to brown the top of the turkey. This also helps the outside of your turkey get nice and crispy!
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It looks great and tastes delicious!

Your turkey will be a show stopper at your next Thanksgiving party!

My family loved the turkey! They ate the entire thing, down to the bones. Thanks mom!!!

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Fun tip from my mom- The turkey drippings are all contained inside your turkey bag. It makes excellent turkey gravy for your Thanksgiving mashed potatoes! All you have to do is strain the turkey drippings and add a roux (flour mixed with water or butter). Bring it up to a rolling boil and you’re done! Delicious, homemade gravy! Wow, I’m starting to think my mom knows everything.

I hope my genius mom’s tips simplify your turkey-cooking this year!

It really saved my Thanksgiving!

Cheers to people who are smarter than me who share their wisdom!!!!

Sincerely,

Mrs. S

 

Share this post with anyone who needs a simple Thanksgiving this year!

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