Even though Thanksgiving isn't upon us yet, it’s time to talk turkey. Buying and roasting a bird can be intimidating,
especially if you’re a first-time host or hostess. Even those of us who have done it before have a hard time shaking those
nagging thoughts revolving around whether the bird will be juicy or dry or—worse yet—underdone.
It’s understandable. After all, if you’re like most people, you’re only roasting a turkey once, maybe twice a year.
We’ve roasted quite a few turkeys in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, and through trial and error, we’ve picked up on some common
turkey mistakes and how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: You buy the wrong bird.
What To Do Instead: Not all turkeys are created equal. Some birds are self-basting, meaning
that they are injected with a solution of broth, salted water or other flavorings to keep them moist during cooking. We found
these turkeys do stay moister, but if you’re watching your sodium intake you may want to avoid them. Check the label if
you’re buying a turkey from the grocery store. The label will tell you the percent of solution in the bird and will also
include all the ingredients in the solution.
Mistake 2: You buy a bird that’s too big or too small.
What To Do Instead: Unless you’re hosting a huge gathering and buy a tiny turkey, you’re not
likely to run out of meat. What’s more likely is that you end up buying a huge bird for just a few people. For either
scenario, a good way to estimate how much you need is about a pound per person, and that number takes into account some
leftovers. While that might sound like a lot, remember that the weight of the bird includes bone too.
Mistake 3: You stuff the bird.
What To Do Instead: Stuffing a bird is tricky. Since the stuffing is in the middle of the
bird, it takes the longest to cook. To be considered safe, the internal temperature of the stuffing needs to reach 165°F.
Unfortunately, by the time you get the appropriate temperature reading for the stuffing, the meat is overcooked. If you want
to enjoy stuffing with your turkey, bake it separately.
Mistake 4: You destroy the bird while carving.
What To Do Instead: There’s a lot of apprehension when it comes to carving. The first time I
carved a bird, I think I may have left 80% of the meat on the bones and what I did manage to cut off was a shredded mess on
the cutting board. Even though my guests loved the turkey despite its presentation, it would have been satisfying to give
them perfect slices. To avoid this problem, check out a carving guide like the one referenced in the link below. But as a
general rule you want to carve the turkey into it’s separate parts: drumsticks, thighs and wings, and thin slices of juicy
breast meat. You can even practice on a chicken, if you are roasting one between now and Thanksgiving, to give you an extra
Mistake 5: You throw out the pan drippings.
What To Do Instead: After you roast a turkey, don’t move the bird to a cutting board and throw
the roasting pan in the sink. What’s left atthe bottom of the pan are brown, caramelized little bitsof concentrated flavors
that set the stage for a rich and magical gravy. Letting those pan drippings go down the drain is a Thanksgiving crime.
Making a gravy using the roasted goodness is easy and the flavor is far superior to anything you’d get out of a pouch or jar.
Check out the recipe to inspire you to pull off a flawless turkey this year:
Turkey & White-Wine Gravy