Every holiday I hear someone talking about the anxiety of having to cook the turkey for their family meal and, every year, hundreds of people write well meaning articles promising to make the horribly, horribly difficult process of cooking a turkey easier for you so you won’t ruin the holiday for your friends and family.
There’s just one problem with that, cooking a turkey isn’t hard at all. It is easy. It is one of the easiest things to cook that you could ever cook. It is easier, for instance, than cooking a well seasoned and perfectly seared steak. It is easier than making bread, even from a mix in a bag. It is easier than reading a dozen articles on how to cook a turkey and then deciding between them.
So maybe you’re stuck at school over the Thanksgiving break for whatever reason or maybe you are a person who is in their first apartment ever after graduating and you can’t make it home. You want to have a Thanksgiving turkey and invite a few special people over but you are afraid, afraid because you’ve heard that it’s super hard to cook a turkey. But I’m here to tell you, again, that cooking a turkey is very easy.
Here is how you will cook your turkey.
1. Buy your turkey
“But how much turkey is too much turkey,” you ask. The answer is, in an existential sense, that there is no such thing as “too much turkey.” There is only such a thing as too little turkey. You will buy a turkey that is large but that will still fit in the Pyrex baking pan that you will put your turkey in. Maybe it’s this one? I don’t know, you’re the one picking the turkey. Just make sure that the turkey will fit after you’ve bought your pan and that it’s at least three to four inches deep otherwise you will be sad and have to buy another pan or another turkey and that is a hassle. We are against hassles.
Or, buy one of these disposable aluminum pans of the correct size. They’re literally everywhere right now. This is the easiest way to go. Also, it’s better to have a pan that is too big than risking one that is too small.
There are people who will tell you that you have to buy a roasting rack so that the drippings will go down below the turkey. This person may be your own mother or some other loved one. Continue to love them but understand that they are lying to you. You don’t have to buy a roasting rack and collecting the drippings is only useful if you’re going to make gravy. If you want to make gravy then I cannot help you because making gravy is harder than cooking a turkey and this article is about how easy it is to cook a turkey. Besides, you should use this baking pan for another reason which you’ll see below.
I wouldn’t go over a fifteen pound turkey. Mine, in my freezer right now, is 12.96 pounds and will feed three adults and one child this Thursday with, i’m sure, some left over.
Also, buy a meat thermometer. Every department store has them.
2. I Bought This Turkey And This Pan, Now What?
Your turkey will be frozen. It will take three days to thaw in the refrigerator which means you should buy your turkey by Monday, November 23rd OR POSSIBLY EVEN SUNDAY and put it in the fridge, not the freezer. In three days it will be thawed. The exact thawing formula is that it takes twenty four hours per 5 pounds of turkey for it to thaw. If you have a fifteen pound turkey it will take three days. Twenty pounds? Four days. Plan accordingly.
3. Prepping Everything But The Turkey
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Wash your filthy hands.
- Take your thawed turkey out of the package it’s in.
- Rinse and wipe your turkey down with your hands under running water of any temperature between lukewarm and cold. The exact temperature is is not essential. I just don’t want you to scald your hands.
- Remove the giblets and turkey neck from inside the turkey. It is in a wax bag most likely. Throw these out or cook them in a pan and give them to your pet unless you are using them to make gravy which, again, is harder than cooking a turkey.
- Place your turkey in the baking pan.
- Cut four to five large Idaho potatoes (skin on) in quarters and place them around the turkey in the pan.
- Cut four medium to large yellow onions in half and place them in the pan around the turkey.
- Cut up a bunch of whole carrots (not baby carrots) in halves or quarters and put them in the pan around the turkey.
- Spice these vegetables with salt and pepper and some paprika.
This whole process will take about ten minutes but might take twenty the first time you do it. Regardless, it is easy.
4. Prepping The Turkey
Stick a whole onion inside the turkey body cavity from whence the bag of giblets came. You can also put sliced lemons in there and herbs, whatever.
Here is the hardest part and it is still very easy. You want to put about four or five pats of butter underneath the turkey skin of the turkey breast. This will require you to gently (GENTLY) work your washed hands between the skin of the turkey and the turkey breast. Entrance into this “between” area can be found at the turkey’s body cavity. Work your hand in there and place these four to five generous pats of butter evenly across the turkey breast.
You are now done with that.
Rub generous amounts of salt and pepper all over the turkey.
Alternatively, and this is in no way necessary, instead of just putting butter under the skin, mix a quarter stick of room temperature butter with salt and pepper in a bowl. Really mix it all up together. Use your hands, it doesn’t matter. Then put this under the skin of the turkey breast as above.
You are now done with that.
Cover the turkey in aluminum foil.
5. Cooking The Turkey
Put the turkey in your preheated oven.
Cook the turkey for fifteen minutes per pound of turkey. My 12.96 pound turkey will take three and a half hours to cook. This formula is simple. 15 multiplied by the number of pounds of turkey is 194.4 minutes or three and a half hours. Three and half hours is MY cooking time. Yours will be different. Again, 15 minutes per pound of turkey.
Do other things, anything you want, really. It’s your life.
Once the cooking time has elapsed, remove your turkey from the oven and uncover it. It should look amazing but it might/might not be done. Stick your meat thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey breast. It should read 161 degrees or more. Now, stick it in the thigh, it should read 180 degrees or more. If it doesn’t then put the turkey back in the oven for fifteen minutes and check again. Do this until the temperature is right but it will probably be right the first time.
Now you’re done and your turkey is ready to be eaten and you have, perhaps, just cooked your first holiday meal all by yourself with no one there to help you. You’ll note that the potatoes, carrots, and onions appear to be amazing and that the drippings have imbued them with a sort of magical aroma and flavor. You will be thankful that you did not buy a stupid roasting pan and that your mother or other loved one was wrong. You will savor this small victory and lord it over them later. You will tell them they are well meaning but old fashioned.
Open a beer or a bottle of wine, drink this beer or a glass of wine quickly for it is the champagne of victory and you are a god or goddess among men and women.
Congratulations, you have now entered the Secret Society of Knowing that Cooking a Turkey is Exceedingly Easy (SSKCTEE). Now, go act like cooking a turkey is the hardest thing in the world. Tell your guests how difficult it was, lie.