So I made my first turkey. Well, I guess we made our first turkey because it was so f**king heavy I could barely pick it up, and also I would have abandoned ship and bought KFC if it weren't for Ryan insisting everything would be fine. It did turn out okay, and we ate it, but man am I glad that I never have to cook a turkey for the first time ever again. I thought maybe it might be helpful to make a list of rookie mistakes that I made so that someone might learn from it? But also the only person reading this is my mom (hi mom!) and she is a turkey genius so I won't be helping anyone anyway but whatever.
1. Don't Listen to the Packaging
So we were supposed to have twelve people over for dinner. I have never cooked for that many people and I was kind of nervous about having enough food. Newbie-tip #1: don't be nervous. Normally in one of these feast type situations there are so many sides anyway that two chicken nuggets worth of meat is enough to keep everyone happy. Alas, I'm a worrier, and I read the stupid tag that Kroger puts on their turkeys that says: "we recommend buying 1.5 lbs per person." So what did I do? I bought a 25 lb turkey. Mistakes. There was so much leftover we sent everyone home with 4 servings and still had some left.
2. Defrosting Takes Like 4 Days
You buy the turkey frozen, and then you put it straight in the fridge. I'm not kidding, immediately put it in the fridge. I put it in the freezer and took it out on Friday so that we could cook it Sunday. Not defrosted. The center was like a giant ice cube. Heaven help you if you buy your turkey the day before you want to cook it. I took it out on Sunday morning and put it in the sink with cold water and went to church and came home and STILL it was frozen. Blerg, Long story short I stood by the sink running cold water over the freaking thing, risking hypothermia, and we put the turkey in the oven 3 hours later than we planned.
3. Look Up How to Take a Turkey Temperature
After the 6 hours of cooking (insert eye-roll emoji) we took the temperature and it was the approved 165 degrees. Cool, right?! We let it sit for half an hour, as instructed by my mom, and sliced it up and it was eh, pretty decent. Of course we had 3/4 of a turkey left over after everyone ate, so we decided to slice up the rest of it and send it home with everyone. Well, the deeper in we got, the less certain we were that the inside was fully cooked. Don't worry friends, we didn't send you home with those pieces. I think we should have googled how to take the turkey temperature because we definitely did it wrong. But also, I'm never getting a turkey that big again so I won't have to worry about it as much.
4. Cook the Stuffing Inside the Turkey
This, I did not mess up. I used the simplest stuffing recipe from my mom and shoved it way up in there. I zapped it in the microwave after I took it out just to be *double sure* that there wasn't any uncooked turkey juices in there. It turns out so flavorful if you cook it in the turkey, and it doesn't take up extra room in the oven. The only downside is that you are limited to making only as much as you can fit in the bird, which makes it a hot commodity at the table. But DANG is it good. Here is the recipe:
Any kind of bread you have. I used hamburger buns.
Cube up your bread... as much as you think you can shove inside the turkey. Let sit on the counter to get a little crusty, a couple of hours.
Melt as much butter as you can handle in a skillet and chop onion and celery. Saute onion and celery in the butter until softened. While you are waiting, chop herbs (make sure you go easy on the sage). Pour butter mixture over your bread cubes, add herbs, salt and pepper, and mix until the bread is coated.
Stuff turkey with stuffing. Pack it in tight! When the turkey is done, take the stuffing out while the turkey rests and cover it with foil or put in a warm oven. Enjoy!
Now that I have my first turkey cooking experience behind me, I feel waayyyy more confident about doing it in the future. All it takes is a little experience, I think! Of course, like anything else, you need to make mistakes yourself in order to learn from them. I say, just go for it!