I have a confession, I’ve never cooked a turkey before. Never. Nope, not even once.
My husband is the turkey maker in our family. When we were first married he decided to take on the job, and boy have we learned a lot about roasting a turkey.
It can be a little confusing. Here are just a few questions one might be faced with; stuff, don’t stuff? Brine, don’t brine? Breast side up, breast side down? Fry, grill or roast? High heat, low heat? Inject flavors?…….or just buy a ham!
There really isn’t a wrong way, BUT….we are very simple here at the Cusano house. We roast at moderate heat, stuff the bird, no injections are needed for this bird. Now there is one very critical component that will either yield you a juicy delicious bird or a dry one. Are you ready? Hold onto your hats because this one is going to blow you away……
DON’T OVER COOK YOUR TURKEY! I know that sounds easy, but it really is all about timing. If you go by the little pamphlet that the turkey people give you they will say that for every pound your turkey weighs, bake it for 15 minutes per pound.
Well, as we all know, not all ovens are alike. Short story long, the most important tool for baking a juicy turkey would be to have a meat thermometer. This will help you gauge how slowly/quickly your turkey is roasting.
Let’s start with the deliciously simple sausage stuffing.
Today we are stuffing an 18 pound turkey. First, brown together one pound of Jimmy Dean hot sausage and one pound of Jimmy Dean sage sausage. The sage sausage is a little difficult to find, get it now before it is sold out!
In about 1/4 cup of butter, saute 2 cups of diced celery and 1 cup chopped onions. Season with salt and pepper and just a little sprinkling of Lawry salt. AND since my husband is Italian, he sprinkles just about 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning to the mix.
In a large bowl place about 8 to 10 cups of hard seasoned bread cubes. Toss in the sauteed onions and celery and the browned sausage (no need to drain the sausage, this flavors the stuffing quite nicely, and helps keep it moist).
Make sure the stuffing has cooled before you stuff it in the bird.
Remove all the insides of the bird, we have no use for them here in our little world.
Don’t over stuff.
Now stuff the neck of the bird. Once again, don’t over stuff.
My husband has always wanted to be a surgeon, so this is his one chance every year to prove that he made a good decision on not being one. I think it just makes the bird look like Franken Turkey. My mom never sewed up her little flaps…..how am I supposed to sneak out a taste of that stuffing while it is cooking.
You will have a little bit of stuffing left over. This is good. Place the stuffing in a small pan, covered with foil. Poke small holes in the foil. Put in the refrigerator, we’re going to bake it and then mix it into the bird stuffing when the turkey has finished roasting. This way the stuffing won’t be too soggy when we serve it.
Place the turkey in the roasting pan. With about 6 tablespoons of butter (make sure it is a little soft), butter the skin of the turkey.
Lightly salt and pepper.
Place in your 325 degree pre-heated oven.
After the turkey has been roasting in the oven for about one hour, pour one can of chicken stock/broth into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Baste about every half hour.
Oh my goodness, I can’t wait.
Be sure to baste often, we want to keep the meat nice and moist.
If it looks like the bird is browning too much and too fast you can reduce your oven temperature to 300 degrees and tent the bird with foil.
Here is the critical point. The meat thermometer. Now if you have an oven-safe meat thermometer, you can leave it in the turkey while it is roasting. Ours is just an easy-read, so we had to remove it every time we took the turkey’s temperature.
The tip of the meat thermometer should be placed in the thigh muscle just above and beyond the lower part of the thighbone, but NOT touching the bone, pointing towards the body. When the bird is done, this temperature should read 156-160 degrees. Your juices should run clear.
One more thing; be sure that your thermometer is accurate.
Once the turkey is done baking, place on a large serving platter and cover with foil. Let the turkey rest (for about 20 minutes), it has been working very hard.
At this point the turkey will have a little bit of “carry-over” cooking. Meaning that since the bird is so hot inside, it keeps cooking until it is cooled. The final internal temperature will be about 175-180.
Now for the gravy. Please understand that my husband just kind of cooks will- nilly style. I’m not sure why he uses a drinking glass to mix his slurry in, but wait til you taste the gravy. My toes are curling just thinking about it.
Place your roasting pan over medium high heat. Whisk in your slurry. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
Shhhhhh, don’t tell anyone, but this really does take the gravy to the next level of deliciousness. He adds in two jars of turkey gravy.
Once the stuffing from the bird has been mixed with the baked dressing and your gravy is complete, start carving the bird and enjoy one amazing and tasty meal!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!