Turkey Turkey Turkey

Updated on July 15, 2010
J.L. asks from Monrovia, CA
28 answers

I realize it's only July, and way too early to think about Thanksgiving but I can't help that it's on my mind. It might just be that I am craving turkey, I don't know. LOL. Anyways, here's a back story. My mom was a horrible cook. She was an excellent baker, but not the best cook, especially when it came to meat. So my dad always cooked all the meat in the house. When we had our Thanksgiving's I would always be busy with preparing other things while my mom baked and my dad did the turkey. This is the very first year I get to do Thanksgiving all on my own (my dad is no longer with us).
I did cook a turkey twice but it just didn't come out as good as my dads. I did one with my friend in a crockpot. She pretty much did most of it, throwing seasoning on it while I rubbed it down with butter. It had a good taste, but the skin didn't have that golden, crispness. And she is one of those "whatever I feel like adding" cooks that doesn't keep track of what she threw on it. The second time I made one with my boyfriend and it was okay, but not much flavor. I seem to remember my dad cooking it upside down (breast down), does that sound right? I also don't want to use onions (no one in our house likes them). So my question is how do I cook a turkey? I would appreciate any techniques you ladies might have or tips, or even if you want to share your special recipe. I am sort of lost and want it to come out great. Plus I want to do a test run...mostly just because I want turkey! Thanks!!!!

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Wow! All I can say is you guys rock! I know I could have went on-line and searched it, but having been on this website for a little while i have learned you guys have great opinions and advice. I wanted it straight from you, and I thank you guys so much for your suggestions. Losing my father was and still is devistating. I struggle with it from time to time, but the holidays seem to hit me hard. I know he wouldn't want me sad and would want me to cook my heart out for my own little family. I want to buy 2 turkeys now and try a combo of the suggestions you guys gave. Reading all the responses made me crave it even more, and I totally can't wait to try them out! Thank you so much!
BTW I will totally use a whole onion for flavor (I do in my pot roasts) I just don't like them chopped up and put in the food I eat. =)

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answers from Los Angeles on

I think you got some good answers but I wanted to add that I don't like to stuff my bird. It cooks faster that way I prefer my dressing not so soggy. But to add flavor, I put a green apple and an onion in the cavity. Since you don't like onion you could leave that out.

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answers from Norfolk on

My secret to crispy skin is green butter! Melt two sticks of butter, stir in 1 heaping teaspoon of ground sage, a teaspoon of sea salt and a half teaspoon coarse ground black pepper, and use it to baste the turkey repeatedly during a long, slow roasting. Basting thoroughly every half hour yields a juicy, crispy turkey.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I use the Cajun Injectables Cajun Butter, Tony Chacery's Cajun Seasoning (in the green can), and oven bags.

The day before, I inject the entire container of Cajun Butter into the turkey and put it into the refrigerator to "marinate." You don't have to do this, but it gives it a bit of extra time to really soak into the meat.

The day of, I mix a few tablespoons on the cajun seasoning with a stick of butter and rub it all over the outside of the bird. I then put the whole bird, breast side up, into an oven roasting bag, put it into a roasting pan and roast it in the oven until it reaches 170 degrees in the thigh.

I then open up the oven bag and use a turkey baster to baste the broth/butter mixture over the turkey. This is also a good time to obtain some of the broth for gravy. Baste several times over the next 30 minutes or so that it will require to reach 180 degrees. I don't use or trust the pop-up timer as I have had them pop prior to the bird being done.

I hope this works out for you. I've had many compliments on my turkey.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My Dad always cooked the turkey too. In my 30's I learned a way to cook them that I like and would still use if I ever cooked a turkey. My daughter now cooks the turkey.

She rubs the inside with salt and pepper, turns the wings backward onto the back to form a platform to hold the turkey upright with the breast side up, puts it on a rack inside the roasting pan, rubs butter on the outside, pours in a cup or so of water and covers it with a lid. I'd have to look at the directions to find out temperature and times. She takes the lid off the roaster for the last 15-20 minutes or so, so that the skin does crisp up. She bastes the turkey, using a turkey baster, periodically during the baking time. She doesn't put any stuffing in the cavity and I think the turkey has less flavor as a result but it's still delicious.

She buys the turkey with the "pop up" button that pops up when the turkey is done. You can also buy the button separately and insert it yourself or use a meat thermometer pushed into the thigh and not touching bone.

I rub the inside with salt and pepper and loosely stuff the cavity with a dressing made out of a purchased bread cube mix. I add chopped onions, diced celery, sometimes nuts, whole raw cranberries, or anything else that holiday reading suggests to me to the stuffing. I like to add browned crumbled sausage but no one in my family liked it. I thought it helped keep the stuffing/dressing moist and added more flavor. You can eliminate onions.

I make enough dressing/stuffing to fill a 2 qt. casserole dish too. The stuffing and a slice of turkey with gravy is the best part of the meal for me. I want left over stuffing and gravy too.

I put the turkey with the breast and legs buttered, breast side up, in a large brown paper grocery bag, close up the end and let it bake without basting it or even looking at the turkey until I'm ready to see if it's done. The skin always comes out crisp and evenly brown.

I tell when it's done by moving the turkey leg. When done, the leg moves easily.

I then make gravy using the pan drippings. My daughter thinks it's too difficult and doesn't want anyone in the kitchen with her. too bad! :( :) I bring ready made gravy in a jar.

Put the roasting pan on two burners after skimming off some of the fat, add a small amount of water, turn the heat on low, scrape the bits of turkey, skin, and perhaps some small amount of dressing that has leaked out loose.

At this point you can add flour stirring it into the fat and small amount of liquid, if you have a very small amount of liquid, until the flour browns. Then gradually stir in milk with a wisk so that lumps don't form.

Usually there is too much liquid to do this. I add turkey bouillon to the liquid to get extra flavor. Put flour into a jar, add milk, put on the lid and shake until all the lumps are gone. Gradually stir the milk into the pan using a wisk.

I've typed all of this from memory and know that you'll need to have more exact measurements. But this will give you the ideas for two different methods. You can find actual recipes in many different cook books. My favorite cook book is Betty Crocker's basic cook book. Fannie Farmer is a good one as is The Joy of Cooking. There are several really good ones written more recently. You can also find good recipes and ideas on the Internet. Just google turkey roasting recipes or just food recipes to get to several good sites.

I think my Dad tried cooking his turkey on it's breast once and it looked awful. What's on the bottom doesn't brown very well and it gets misshapen sitting on a rack and the skin pulled off in chunks. It needs to sit on a rack so that heat passes under the turkey and also so the turkey doesn't stick to the pan.

Enjoy cooking and eating your turkey. Now I want some too. lol

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answers from Los Angeles on

L.'s Perfect Turkey

In order to do a turkey "hot cook" method, you will need:
a roasting rack
a large roasting pan
2 large boxes chicken stock
2 carrots, 1 onion, 1 whole garlic
Herbs Provence` (spice mix is easily found at most stores)

Pre-heat your oven to 425
Throughly wash the bird, inside and out.
Stuff the cavity with the onion (this will be thrown away at the end so don't worry about your onion aversion), carrots, garlic (with the peals removed). Rub the interior and exterior of the bird with the herb mix.

Place the bird, BREAST SIDE DOWN on the rack and put the rack in the roaster. Pour the chicken stock into the bottom of the pan (there should be at least 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches of liquid). Tent the top with tin foil

Roast the bird about 9 minutes per pound. For the last 20 min, remove the foil, flip the bird so that the breast is up so that it browns. Use a meat thermometer to insure that the bird is cooked through - 167 degrees is optimum!

This works best for birds under 18 lbs...although I have done bigger ones this way, you have to be careful that the bird is cooked through.
You will end up with the moistest meat ever and the stock at the bottom makes incredible gravy! Just strain, separate and slowly add Wondra flour.

Good luck

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Oh it's going to be turkey day in July! (Gingerbread houses in August). Because now I'm hungry, too.

I cooked my first turkey upside down on accident. It was such a round bird I couldn't tell which end was up... so I winged it... no pun intended.

If your dad's skin was crispy, he roasted or fried it (my 2 favorite ways).

I've started brining it (I usually cheat and buy the jar of it, but if I'm brining tomorrow, there are tons of recipes online, including on the link I'm going to paste) before roasting in the oven, OR deep frying it in peanut oil. Yum. (Soooooo delicious, and not greasy at all. Less greasy than fried chicken, because the durn turkey is a LOT bigger than chicken parts.)

I've noticed something about my mums/grandmother's generation:

Butterball turkey & salt & that's it. There may be stuffing, there may not... but it's Butterball in the oven. Nothing fancy schmancy (I like schmancy).

For both simple, creative, & complex... be sure to check out this site. Even has videos for things like how you tuck the wings over.


What I've

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answers from Reno on

This may seem very simplistic, but here's how I have been doing it for about 15 years, as I am the only one who makes the turkey for Thanksgiving (and sometimes Easter).

I buy large birds- about 23 lbs. or so. I rinse it off and pat it dry. I place it in the pan with about an inch and a half of water. I sprinkle salt on top of it, cover it with foil and bake at the temp. the instructions tell you. I never stuff it, as I'm afraid I will accidentally give everyone food poisoning!! lol I leave it alone until I can smell its yumminess... then I baste it using the water/juices in the pan and in the bird... being sure to baste the entire bird (don't forget the drumsticks)... then, re-cover, continue to bake, basting about every 30 mins. or so... Then, when the turnkey is nearly finished, take the foil off and allow it to bake to brown the skin. Voila!!! I have never had a dry turkey or one without a golden brown skin... The juices will flow clear and meat is moist. Everyone raves about it, and it's the easiest part of the meal to make!

As a side note, my mom would put onion slices and celery in with the water, as a little extra flavoring.

Good luck and happy baking!! :)

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answers from Honolulu on

I cooked the first turkey of my life last year for t'giving and my relatives said it was the "best they've ever eaten" which is a huge complement, since my SIL subscribes to Gourmet magazine. Anyhoo, it was a lot of prep...
- If frozen, thaw the turkey gradually in the fridge.
- Put the turkey in a cooler with ice and water to cover it with about 1/2 cup of kosher salt for several hours or overnight (this is for the crispy skin thing)
- Separate the skin from the meat all over the bird but don't tear it
- make a paste of butter, thyme, parsley, sage and a little rosemary and slather the meat all around with this paste under the skin
- Bake it according to the weight of it in the oven (I just googled it - lower temp is better)


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answers from New York on

July is a great time to cook a turkey. You only need to heat up the house once and then you'll have meat for sandwiches or make a turkey salad for those hot nights when you don't want to cook.

In the past we've always bought frozen, last year we bought a fresh turkey. It made a big difference.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Here's the Butterball website:


My mom makes an awesome turkey and doesn't "brine" it and it is golden and crispy and delicious right out of the oven. She cooks it in a roast pan.

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answers from Dallas on

I cook mine a little differently and they are always great. We have a family of 3 and I usually roast a 20-25# turkey.

I do stuff mine using the Pepperidge Farm stuffing and adding the herbs and spices we like.

On Thanksgiving, I will have the turkey stuffed (I rub butter all over the turkey) and in the oven (breast up) (water added to my roasting pan) on a low temp usually 250 or so, cover it "tented" and leave it alone. Sometimes we go to the movies, etc. After 3 hrs or so I'll check on it, add water if needed, and bump the temp up to about 300-325, then let it go again. About an hour before we plan to eat, usually 4ish, I will turn the temp up to make sure it is done and the last 20 minutes blast it after basting at 425 to get the crispy outside.

I know you can do this in a shorter amount of time, it is tradition at my house to savor the aroma of the turkey roasting and preparing the meal. I love cooking and enoy all the prep.

Tonight is rack of lamb, Yum!

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answers from Phoenix on

Hey! My mom made a wonderful turkey every year for Thanksgiving. When it was time for me to learn, I spent a year with her writing down every single thing she did by the minute while she cooked and I watched. Yes, I am that organized and type A. As a result I have had the chance to make some fabulous turkey's in the last 5 years. If you would like me to send you the Microsoft word document with my cooking instructions I would be happy to share. It is just too long to post on here. Shoot me a private message and I'd be glad share.

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answers from Chicago on

go to www.butterball.com . They will give you everything from a guide to buying the right amount to tips on cooking and you can sign up for their newsletter. They also have a "turkey hotline" you can call for days prior to the holidays that is answered by live people that can guide you. They have given my wonderful help and people love my turkey (this coming from someone who baked all those bags inside the turkey with the turkey because I thought they were stuffing the first time I made one).

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answers from Visalia on

omg! i love cooking turkey. this is how i do it and it comes out moist and brown.

i use those baking bags, be sure to use the large ones for turkeys. following the direction especially for time. once i clean the turk and dry it off i rub cooking oil/ or butter all over. if ur not stuffing the turk you can insert whole carrots, onions, celery any herbs on both cavities, this will bring flavor thru out the turk.

it takes less time with the baking bag. i couldnt believe it was done, cause im so use to cooking it for a 100hrs, lol, that i left it for another half hour and there were no juices or broth for gravey. i suggest u dont have the turk upside down or the skin wont get brown or crispy.

good luck, im coming over, lol.

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answers from Washington DC on

I always soak my turkey in a brine for a day or two before cooking it. It's always delicious and always fall-apart tender and juicy (with no dangerous deep-fryer involved). Even my mom (the HEAD COOK of the family) raved about it. I use it for stews and sandwiches for weeks afterward that are equally as delicious.

What you do is you get a frozen turkey and thaw it in your fridge. One day of thawing for every 5 pounds of bird. Then you make the brine in a large stockpot. Here's what I use for a 20lb bird:

1 Gallon of Chicken broth, bring to a boil
2 cups coarse sea salt
2-3tbsp each of the following

Once the salt is dissolved, allow to cool. Once cool, add 1 gallon of COLD water. Stir to mix. Reserve about 3 cups of brine solution in an airtight container in your fridge for later on.

Prepare bird (remove neck, heart etc.. - usually included in a plastic bag inside the cavity up near the breast). Line a 5 gallon bucket with a clean plastic garbage bag. Place turkey, breast down - rear up, in the bucket and pour brine solution over turkey, making sure to fill the cavity. Seal bag tight and cover bucket with lid if you have it or something flat and heavy to discourage pests of any kind. Let sit in a COLD location (cold like a fridge, for meat handling safety) for at least 24 hours; I let mine sit on my garage steps since it's so cold out there that time of year but my garage is still sheltered.

Once soaking is done, pull turkey out and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. Inject turkey about every inch through the breast and thighs, with an injecting syringe and some of the reserved brine. Place, breast down, in a roasting pan (make sure you place the removal strings in the pan first, spread out, and lay the bird on top of them, then tie them in place to keep them readily available). Pour about a cup of reserved brine in the bottom of the pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and cook at 350 for 10 minutes per pound (brined turkeys cook faster). Baste every so often with brine from the bottom of the pan. Use pan drippings to make gravy. I even put some of the pan drippings in my mashed potatos.

Don't trust the pop-up indicator because the brine makes these malfunction. Instead use a good meat thermometer to check and make sure the meat has reached the desired temp for safety. Make sure that the thermometer isn't touching bone when you stick it in. It should be in only meat and should be used in the thigh of the bird since that's the red meat, which takes longer to cook. Only pull the bird out when the red meat of the thigh is cooked enough.

Also: Afterward just boil the carcass to make all of the meat fall off. You'll still have to pick through it once it's cooled down for small bones and cartilege (sp?) but it's worth it. Freeze it in air-tight freezer bags in about 3lb. servings for making sandwiches and stews with later. It can really help to have this available during the hectic holiday season.

Hope this helps and best wishes. There's nothing I love more than cooking Thanksgiving dinner!!


Edit: I'm so sorry, I was re-reading my post and I accidentally said "breast down" for cooking the bird. It's actually only breast down for soaking it. I cook it breast up. Sorry for the slip-up.

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answers from Provo on

I do it the same way my mom's done it for....forever :). I massage the bird down with butter and rock salt (sea salt), stick some butter inside and seal it...either with a roasting pan that has a good lid or nice and tight with some tinfoil. Then I don't touch it...when it comes out...it doesn't look all that gorgeous...but it is soooo good. The meat is falling of the bone all over...we shred it instead of cutting it...and then put the juices in one of those separator cup things and separate out the fat and pour some of the broth back over all the shredded meat. Kind of random...not very pretty...but the best turkey I've ever tasted. :)

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answers from San Diego on

one of the things my Dad taught me (he was a gourmet cook) was to soak the turkey in a really good brine (basically big bucket of water with a ton of salt - there are recipes online) for a day or two before cooking.

I have also found that using those Reynolds Turkey bags really guarantee the skin to turn out crispy. Just follow the instructions given in the box.

And, yes, definitely breast down, all the juices will drip down from the dark fatty meat to help keep the white meat moist.

Let's see...oh, I also stuff the bird with an orange and a lemon. I do also do an onion or two and if you keep it to a minimum, it will just add a bit of flavor without overpowering it with onion flavor. Stick to not stuffing the bird with stuffing and just make it separate to prevent food borne illnesses.

As for spices, you could make it easy on yourself and buy a mixed turkey from somewhere like World Market or Williams & Sonoma. Depending on the flavors you like, spices can vary widely - are you going for that sort of spiciness like cumin, paprika, etc. or that sort of herby flavor like basil, oregano, etc.

I don't get to cook them anymore because I married into a big family with a big tradition of one uncle frying, another cooking, etc. - boo hoo;)

Good luck, Thanksgiving is so much fun!!

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answers from Dayton on

Hi JennaLynn,

I agree with Riley 100% about the brining. If you want a turkey that is really flavorful and moist then the secret is to brine it first. I didn't know what brining was until (thank you, Alton Brown) I saw a special on foodnetwork before thanksgiving and I had to try it. Basically what you do is create a liquid, alot of it, with the main ingredients being salt and water and then whatever else you want to throw in. My fave is Mean Chef's Apple Brine from the recipezaar website. Whatever you put in the brine will subtley flavor the meat. Make the brine the day before you cook and when the turkey is thawed. Twelve hours before cooking and when the brine is cooled to room temp place the turkey in a cooking bag (one made for turkeys) and place it in an large aluminum throw away roasting pan with the breast side down. Pour in the brine and seal the bag. Six hours later turn the turkey over inside the bag. When you are ready to cook, remove the bird and throw away the brine, salt and pepper the cavity of the bird and place garlic, cellery, carrot, lemon and orange inside the cavity. Stuff it full. Then butter, or use olive oil, to coat the bird and salt and pepper the skin. I like Lawry's Season Salt. Tuck the wings under the turkey (like a turkey wing hammer lock) and tie the legs together with twine. Then cook according to the instructions on the bird. If the skin starts to get too brown too early, cover the breast part with foil to keep in from getting any browner and continue to roast.

Basically what happens when you brine meat is there is a transfer of juices. The turkey releases it's liquid and absorbs the liquid in the brine, so that it is flavorful and moist.

Hope this is helpful and if it's any consolation, I've been thinking about the holiday meals too. =)


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answers from Los Angeles on

OMG! Yummy! I read maybe half of your responses and YOU are gonna do GREAT! Do stick something inside for flavor, packed loosely as to not slow the cooking process. Things that I have used are coarsely chopped onion, celery tops (leaves are the most flavor-giving), oranges and herbs (parsley, sage rosemary and thyme). Apple would be good, too!
Also, the meat thermometer is important.
Have fun, it really can be a simple and fun food to cook.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I don't brine or use injected turkeys (butterball) because I think the gravy ends up way too salty. I do roast mine breast side down for 2/3s of the cooking time and then flip it to brown the rest. Be sure to butter or oil the breast so it doesn't stick to the pan. I find that the breast is very moist, and the dark meat is done at the same time as the white meat this way. To flip over a large hot turkey, I buy a brand new pair of dishwashing gloves to use for the occasion and "wash my hands" with soap and water after I put the gloves on to remove any residue. The gloves protect your hands from the heat long enough for you to get a good grip. I haven't dropped a bird yet, but since it's going back in the oven for another hour or two anyway don't sweat it if you do! I don't bother basting as this method eliminates the need. I'd rather do one quick flip than get blasted with heat every 30 min. while basting. Good luck, I'm sure you'll try every one of these suggestions:)

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answers from Los Angeles on

Do you have a William Sonoma near you? We have one at VictoriaGardens in Rancho Cucamonga. They have all sorts of cooking classes. They also have a turkey brine that works great!! I personally have an electric roaster that sits on my counter when I cook turkey. Plug it in and it cooks great! It also frees up the oven so you can cook your other favorites. Yum!
Best of Luck to you... the classes really worked for me.

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answers from Boston on

I can't help much with recipes, because I have never had to, nor do I want to host Thanksgiving but, I had an Aunt,whom I loved dearly, who was an awful cook, except for turkey. Don't know what if any spices she used, but she always said her secret was cooking it upside down. She claimed it let the juices "flow into the breasts".

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answers from Los Angeles on

Sorry to hear about the loss of your father. [hugs] We faced the same thing. My Father loved doing the family dinner, my Mom and I did the baking. The first year after my Dad was gone, I sat down and cried. My husband gave me a hug, then sat down with a cookbook, and we began some new traditions, just like you are doing.

We cook our turkey in a foil pan with an inch or so of water and covered with foil. It gets basted every half an hour to 45 minutes. Before it goes in the oven it gets brushed with butter & a little salt, we put a whole apple and a small onion inside the cavity and it gets pinned shut. No one eats them, they just add moistness to the meat. It gets cooked very slowly on a med low temp and is always flavorful and juicy. (No...you can't taste the apple or the onion at all! ;-) ) The top comes out golden brown. The dressing is made on the stove, a little of the turkey drippings are used for the gravy. My husband boils the giblets on the stove top and adds some of the drippings to the juice from the boiled giblets to make the gravy. We amiably argue about whether to add chopped up giblets to the gravy. Ewwwww hahahhaha

While it's cooking you have time to set a beautiful holiday table to show off your delicious meal! Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter are formal sit down meals with pretty linens, flowers and best dinnerware at our house. My family drifts in and out sniffing the wonderful smells, helping cook and watching me set a gorgeous table. Can you tell I love holidays?

Have fun with it, I'll bet you turn out a spectacular meal!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I haven't read all the responses yet but when I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner I came across this book in the bookstore called "Thanksgiving 101" by Rick Rodgers. I think you may be able to find it on Amazon, but it was awesome! it gives easy basic instructions and recipes, many of which i've used over the years.
Now I'm craving turkey!!

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answers from Honolulu on

Look on allrecipes.com for a good recipe to BRINE the turkey prior to cooking it. Youe usually have to thaw the bird so you need to buy way before you're ready to cook anyway. Brining takes place a couple of days before the actual "cook date" but it well worth the prior planning. My hubby brines our birds everytime and it makes the most delicious, moist flavorful meat even if we do NOTHING else. Also, something to keep in mind when you do this in November... When we lived in Rhode Island, we actually brined the bird on the back porch because the temp was steadily cold enough to be safe AND we lived on an island without much in the way of theiving-type animals. If you have a place that is secure and cold (a basement, enclosed porch, etc) that may save you from having to take up so much space in your fridge.
Also, invest in one of the digital thermometers that you can set to alarm when it reaches the temp you set (I use this for everything - Target sells them.) It helps to be able to leave the door closed and KNOW that the bird is not over cooking. Just be sure to look online to make sure you place the probe correctly.
Good luck and Bon Apetit!

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answers from Reno on

Hi, J..
Try stuffing the turkey with cut apples and oranges. Adds a nice flavor. I wrinse and sprinkle the skin with garlic salt and italian herbs. Mix melted butter with either white wine or beer (both work good) and baste the turkey with that about once an hour or hour and a half through cooking. Take a paper bag and remove one side (so it makes a little "cave"), and place that over the turkey It keeps it moist but gives the turkey a beautiful brown finish when it's done. Use the cooking times on the turkey, but the drumsticks will move freely when the turkey is done. If you turn off the oven but leave the turkey in for up to an hour before serving, it seals in the juices and will help it stay moist.
Good luck!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I love to cook, my grandmother was a great cook and my mother was a so-so cook. I was taught how to make my turkeys by my mother in law. One of the things I do is rinse the turkey well and rub salt on the outside and inside or the cavity. Also I do stuff mine then bake. I know that is not the way a lot of people do it now, but I have never had a problem. Also I do baste it with butter to help the skin get a little crisper. Maybe only two or three times during the entire baking time. Keep an eye on the time and temperature. Check to see if juices run clear when poked into the breast. I have heard of people cooking the bird breast side down, but I have never tried it. Hope this helps somewhat!

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