Turkeys are a notoriously difficult bird to cook properly, all too often you end up with cardboard breast meat or an underside cooked pink and inedible. Or even worse, looking pink and pallid on the outside, even though properly cooked all the way through. Frozen Turkeys even more so.
Now there’s a very simple way to end up with tasty, moist and properly prepared Turkey from a bog-standard frozen supermarket bird, with no need to resort to fowl play (Ouch, sorry, I’ll get me coat). Like with all meats, it’s a simple temperature time equation, with a touch of salt, pepper, garlic powder and a couple of goops of olive oil and butter and so simple even I can get it right. I did it myself for thanksgiving 2016 with a 1.92kg frozen turkey. Result; Golden brown skin and tender breast and thigh meat. Dee-licious. All without saucery or other dark arts culled from store bought ready made and full of additives ‘mixes’. This is simple cookery, not Haute Cuisine of other such high-falutin stuff, just the sort anyone can get right with a little care and attention to detail.
To prepare; thoroughly defrost bird from frozen. This will require a sink of warm water into which you put the whole, polythene encased bird (Do not unwrap yet!) that you bought at your local grocery store. Leave overnight in warm water, which by the physics of heat transfer, if left in the sink to defrost at 9-11am, should be thoroughly free of ice, ready for cooking the following morning. If pushed for time you could try unwrapping your bird and leaving it in the oven at it’s lowest setting for a couple of hours, but I’ve never done it that way, so can’t guarantee the results.
Once you are happy that your bird is defrosted, remove giblets and other impedimenta that the processors generally leave in the bird, put your defrosted Turkey in a roasting dish and rub all over with a generous spodge of olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and garlic powder, then give it a quick sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Put some butter on the top of the breast and cover with foil. Leave for an hour or two (Play a game, read a book, go out for a drink, come back) to let the olive oil and seasonings thoroughly permeate the skin. Set oven to 320-325 degrees Fahrenheit. Wait until oven is up to temperature before putting foil covered bird in.
Now for cooking times; these vary widely. Remember; a stuffed bird will take almost half as long again to cook properly as one that is unstuffed. There is also the issue of cooking everything through properly. Which is harder to do with a stuffed bird. For my version, I cooked the turkey on its own, with nothing for company but vegetables to bake in the pan. Roast Potatoes and Parsnips are good, and are a splendid complement to Turkey. I prefer my sage and onion stuffing cooked in a separate pan which allows the bird to cook through without losing ingredients to the meat. That and the stuffing can be divided equally, leading to fewer parson’s noses out of joint at point of serving. Now, unlike the times in the two links above, I gave my bird three hours at 320 degrees which resulted in moist, flavourful meat, crispy and golden brown roasted skin, with sufficient juices for some very luscious gravy.
Now this is only my observation, but the knack seems to be to cook slightly cooler than recommended for longer to stop your bird ending up like dried cardboard. A general rule of thumb is if you’re cooking at 320 instead of 350, add at least an extra half an hour or so to the cooking time, or at least forty five minutes for a stuffed bird. Even then this is not a hard and fast rule. Set up base camp in the kitchen and be watchful.
Now remember that even a small Turkey will feed a lot of people. Before you embark on this minor labour of Hercules, invite friends and family. If you haven’t got any, go make some. Kidnap a few if you have to. Tell your vegetarian friends (If you have the misfortune to have any) it’s only shaped Tofu. Of course it’s organic. Lie, cheat, steal, but get them at the table, napkins all tucked in, eating irons at the ready. Strap or chain them down if you must. Bludgeon them to the dinner table if necessity demands it. Once their bruises have faded they will ultimately thank you for your time and effort and beg to be invited again.