Thanksgiving is coming soon and with turkey often being the star of the show, I was curious as to what the best way to cook a turkey would be. When I asked my mother how we usually cooked our turkey, she simply said in the oven and laughed before explaining that we usually follow the instructions on the oven bag.
Thomas Edinger, executive chef at WSU, said he cooks his turkey the classic way by keeping it whole but will not brine his turkey because that may cause his pan gravy to be too salty. Edinger said he loosens the turkey’s skin, seasons it with salt and pepper, then rubs a compound butter with fresh herbs and lemon zest under the skin to keep the meat juicy. He uses a regular roasting pan, fills the bottom with carrots, celery and onion, and cooks the turkey at a high oven temperature.
Edinger then bastes the turkey with melted butter every 30 minutes or so, and he starts the turkey breast-side down. The dark meat takes longer to cook, but he flips it later on. Edinger said he usually roasts a small to medium turkey in about two to three hours. After the first hour, he turns the oven down to a lower temperature.
While it is common for people to stuff the inside of the bird, Edinger said he cooks the stuffing in a separate dish because by the time the stuffing is cooked to the proper temperature the breast meat of the turkey is dry.
“Leaving it whole is sort of nostalgic,” Edinger said. “The butter method — I like that because it just keeps the meat moist and is really flavorful. You get an awesome pan gravy every year.”
For families who may not cook a turkey every year, Edinger said he has done a tamale cornbread stuffing with Chipotle mashed potatoes as a non-traditional meal with his mother, putting a Southwestern spin on the Thanksgiving meal. My family did prime rib last year and raclette the year before.
Most of the time, Thanksgiving celebrations consisted mainly of my grandmother, my mother and maybe someone else depending on what we felt like doing. My memories mostly consist of helping the two of them cook when I was younger, often breaking up bread for the stuffing.
Many recipes have been handed down from relatives and ancestors, giving them some family heritage.
Jordy Kleven, grandmother of a WSU student, uses a turkey bag to cook her turkey. She said she puts oil on the outside, stuffs it, seasons it and often puts rosemary under the skin of the turkey before she roasts it. The turkey bags have written instructions, which make them convenient and practical to use.
“It always is moist, nice and golden brown, has a wonderful flavor, and the clean-up is a snap!” Kleven said.
Kleven said sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce are must-haves to go with her turkey recipe. She cooks her stuffing in the turkey using homemade breadcrumbs with chopped celery and onion cooked in butter. She said she also puts at least a tablespoon of poultry seasoning in her stuffing, depending on how large the turkey is.
To keep the stuffing moist, Kleven said she usually uses turkey broth or chicken broth. Additionally, Kleven said the turkey should be 165 degrees to be safe to eat and the darker meat should reach 185 degrees.
While family gatherings may be smaller this year, we can all still enjoy a well-cooked Thanksgiving dinner using our preferred cooking method. Happy Thanksgiving, WSU.