Tip Number One:
Cook it breast side down.
Flavor in a turkey is like intelligence in a congressman – it is all in their backside.
The juices, fat and flavor of the big bird are in its bottom.
If you cook it upside down those juices and flavor flow down into the breast.
Butter and season your turkey. Oil the bejeesus out of the rack on the bottom of the roaster. Place the bird butt up and breast side down on that rack.
About an hour on the short side of the prescribed cooking time, pull out the bird and flip it breast side up. Butter the breast, brown it for a half hour and then remove it from the oven.
Cover it with a loose foil tent kept off the skin with toothpicks so the foil doesn’t stick.
The turkey will hold it’s temperature and continue to
cook for almost an hour.
Tip Number Two:
Most of us aren’t used to cooking big stuff. We mostly cook a couple of pounds of protein at a time. Turkeys are bigger than that.
Because they take up the whole oven and they cook longer – if your oven temperature is calibrated wrong it makes a big difference.
And your oven is calibrated wrong…
If you can’t get your oven calibrated before turkey day then use one of those oven themometers from the hardware store.
Always cook your big chicken a little less than Joy of Cooking advises.
Joy didn’t allow for Aunt Marge dictating that the turkey be placed on hold for fifteen minutes while she bakes her green beans with the canned fried onions on top.
The last minute timing of serving a bunch of vegetable courses prepared by relatives can be maddening.
Tip Number Three
Forget the tongs.
Your big chicken is tough to manhandle with standard implements.
Get a couple of thick towels to protect your hands and then just pick that sucker up and move it around. Try to avoid leaving behind threads and fluff and such.
Tip Number Four
It’s all about the gravy.
Supplement your turkey juices with a good chicken broth and finish it with butter for gloss and a good roux for thickness and richness. The roux is everything. Cook it slowly until it is the color and aroma of hazelnuts then blend it in slowly over a low heat.
There are a myriad of other “turkey tips”. Turkey preparation mythology is tied to genetics and religion. No matter what we tell you, your are still going to cook the turkey like your mom did.