CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Making the perfect Thanksgiving turkey can seem scary and time-consuming, but these tips will make sure your bird is perfect.

Whether this is the first time you are cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving or if it has been a while since you have, these tips from Taste of Home on how to cook the perfect turkey will come in handy.

Buy extra turkey meat

Make sure that you don’t get left holding the last turkey wing. Taste of Home has provided a chart on how to figure out how much turkey a person should get.

Get all-white meat

Not a fan of dark meat or turkey legs? Have all white meat by cooking a turkey breast instead. Order a whole, bone-in turkey breast from your butcher. It cooks through more quickly than a whole bird, and it’s a great option to feed a small number of people. 

Budget time to thaw turkey

Thawing a frozen turkey safely is the key to a happy Thanksgiving—no one wants to have food poisoning after a lovely feast. The average 16-pound turkey takes around four days to fully thaw, so make sure you set aside an appropriate amount of time for defrosting.

Thawing a frozen turkey in the refrigerator is your best option. It’s the ideal way to keep your turkey at safe temperatures during the entire thawing process. Place your turkey (in its original packaging) in the refrigerator on a large platter to catch any drippings. If you don’t have a platter that is big enough, you can use a clean, unscented trash bag, just make sure it doesn’t have any holes in it.

The cold water method is quicker if you’re short on time. It takes as little as 30 minutes per pound. Place the turkey (in its original packaging) in a leak-proof plastic bag. Put the wrapped turkey under cold water and change the water every 30 minutes for however long your turkey needs.

Thawing a turkey in the microwave is only recommended in extreme emergencies. Be sure to unwrap the turkey from its original packaging before putting it in the microwave. The turkey should be able to fit on a plate or a dish with a small lip (to catch turkey juices) that allows it to rotate without getting caught against the walls. If it can’t rotate properly because the bird is too large, the microwave might not be a safe option.

Roast two turkeys instead of one

Try cooking two smaller turkeys instead of one large one if you need to cook a lot of turkeys but you don’t have the space for it. Smaller birds are less intimidating when it comes to cooking safely.

Brine your turkey

Let your turkey sit overnight in a brine of water, salt, and seasonings to give the turkey meat a big boost in flavor. Not enough room in your refrigerator? Use a large beach cooler to hold your brining turkey.

Dry the bird

If you want really crispy skin, dry the bird. Excess moisture on the surface of the turkey creates steam in the oven, and results in soggy skin. Use paper towels to dry the outside of the turkey before seasoning and roasting.

Season underneath the skin

Lift the skin of the turkey, rub the seasonings onto the meat, and place fresh herbs along with it. Place the skin back down and coat it with butter. Rub more seasoning and fresh herbs on top of the butter-slathered skin.

Use a meat thermometer

Using a meat thermometer is your best bet to know exactly when to pull that bird from the oven. Remove the turkey from the oven before taking its temperature. Insert the tip into the thickest part of the thigh. When it reads 175°F and the breast reads 165°, it’s good to go.

Add a glaze to help with browning

To get a rich brown color over the whole turkey without overcooking, use a glaze. With a basting brush, dab molasses, honey or jam onto lighter areas to speed up browning.

Don’t baste your turkey

Every time you open the oven door to baste the turkey, it cools down the internal temperature of the oven, which increases the cooking time. Increased cook time means a drier turkey.

Cook giblets in your slow cooker

Put the giblets in the slow cooker the night before, with enough water to cover them, and simmer them overnight. The next morning, they’re ready to be chopped and added to the dressing mixture, as is the hot broth.

Carving your turkey

According to the Food Network, the first step is to let your turkey rest. Let your turkey rest for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on its size, before beginning to carve. This settles the juices, meaning they won’t spill everywhere when you carve the bird. 

Then, grab a large and sharp chef’s knife, a big cutting board, a platter, and paper towels. Place the turkey on the cutting board with the cavity facing towards you and remove any butcher’s twine that’s still trussing the legs together.

Next, you slice the skin that is near the thigh to separate the leg from the body. Cut through the joint and along the body, and angle the knife towards the bone as you cut. Once you hit the bone with your knife, use your hands, grasp the thigh, and bend it backward until there’s a pop and the joint becomes visible. Clean off your hands and then slice through the joint and through the rest of the thigh meat. This separates the leg and thigh from the backbone. Do the same steps with the second leg and thigh.

Take the wings off by pulling them back until you hear a pop, just like with the legs. Slice through the joints to remove the wings.

Make a long, deep cut along one side of the breastbone. Follow the curve of the bone with the tip of your knife and gently pull the meat away as you go. Repeat on the second side of the breast. Remove the turkey carcass from the board.

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