Turkey 101 – Tips from Pros

Every November we receive numerous questions from customers about how to prepare the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. With the help of Rob Levitt from the Butcher & Larder and our friends at Local Foods (1427 W Willow), we’ve assembled five pro tips (plus a video) that will take your turkey skills to the next level.

How to Prepare the Perfect Turkey

1. Start with a high-quality bird.

At HandCut, we almost always work with turkeys from Ferndale Farms in Minnesota. These beautiful turkeys are raised on pasture and packaged fresh, without any preservatives or flavorings.

2. If you have the time, brine.

Rob recommends an overnight brine with a 5% salt-to-water ratio, which translates to approximately 3 TBS salt for every 2 cups water. To that mixture, you can add anything else you'd like, such as herbs, honey, or a little brown sugar. If you can’t brine, spread an herbed, salted butter mixture beneath the turkey’s skin before roasting.

3. Crank the oven.

Rob starts his bird in an oven preheated to 475–500°F (as hot as his mother’s oven will go!). After about 25 minutes, he lowers the heat to 325°F for the remainder of roasting. The initial blast of heat helps the skin develop nice color and crisp.

4. Invest in a probe thermometer.

Insert the probe in the thickest part of the breast, which is the section most likely to dry out if overcooked. When the thermometer reads 150°F, remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest until it’s cool enough to handle. Take your beautiful turkey photos now. Carefully break down the bird into its parts (leg quarters, breasts, wings, etc.) and arrange dark meat and white meat on separate roasting pans (skin up). Shortly before dinner, finish roasting the pieces in a hot oven (425°F) until they hit 165°F. This reheating method allows you to control the cooking time for dark meat and white meat independently, and it ensures that your turkey will be hot and crispy when it’s time to eat.

5. Don’t throw that away!

Use your pan drippings to create a delicious gravy, and use your leftover turkey carcass for homemade turkey stock.

How Rob carves his Thanksgiving turkey:

Happy Thanksgiving, from HandCut Foods!

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