WIth Thanksgiving just days away, you may find yourself confused by all the “free range,” “organic,” and “fresh” turkey claims. You’re not alone… we didn’t know where to start either!
That’s why we’re thrilled to share these Turkey Tips from our favorite Green Living expert (and new mom), Sara Snow.
Talking Turkey For Your Thanksgiving Feast
by Sara Snow
For as long as I can remember Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. I have memories of it as a child with all of extended family crammed into our house, smells of warm foods wafting from the kitchen. And later, as the sun started to dip low, I remember the table brimming with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn, salads, fruit molds, and bottles of delicious red wine. All followed by pies galore and hot tea to calm the stomach. While half of the family sank low in chairs, the rest gathered around the piano where we sang the first of the season’s Christmas Carols.
Christmas has become so commercial. Halloween isn’t my thing. But Thanksgiving. It’s the holiday that stands for all that is good in this world and the opportunity to be outwardly grateful for it.
For years I dreamed of the day when I would get to host Thanksgiving at my house. I became resolved to the fact that it wouldn’t happen until we had a child of our own and could demand (ok, suggest) that people come to us, instead of the other way around. Well, guess what. This year is the year!
What all of this means is that I get to roast my first Thanksgiving turkey.
Of course I have roasted plenty of turkeys before, to great success, I might add, but never under such pressure! The Thanksgiving turkey is the centerpeice (unless you go a less traditional route and roast a ham or a tofurkey) of the elaborately laid dinner table! I’ll have my mom on hand but last year was the first year that even she wasn’t able to call her mom for a reminder of which of the innards isn’t meant to be used in the gravy and when you want to cover the bird and when you roast it without a lid.
So, here are a few reminders (for you and me) on selecting and roasting a perfect turkey. They’re steps that I’ll be following and I recommend you do too!
Selecting the turkey
Since there are so many more turkeys to choose from today than there were, say, 30 years ago, here’s a little turkey talk.
- Heritage turkeys are raised outdoors, freely roam on pasture, and eat the varied diet nature intended them to eat, unlike most turkeys today that are raised indoors in confinement and are fed grains, fillers and supplements like antibiotics.
- Certified organic turkeys, you can be assured, will be birds that have been fed organic feed throughout their lives, and have not been treated with antibiotics.
- Pasture raised turkeys grew up in the great outdoors, with access to sunshine and pasture. Free range birds are also free of confinement, but may have been kept in a barn, as opposed to the outdoors.
Of course, I much prefer a fresh turkey, recently slaughtered, from a local, pasture-raised, organic turkey farm. This is what I’ll be roasting.
A fresh turkey will have a more enhanced flavor, versus a frozen bird which you’ll need to thaw in your refrigerator for as many as three days, depending on the size of the bird.
Bring your bird to room temperature by removing it from the fridge 1 to 2 hours before you plan to put it in the oven.
Readying the turkey
Rinse and pat dry your turkey, including the inside cavity, and pull all of the innards aside.
Into the cavity of the bird, place an onion, halved, a couple of stalks of celery, chop into thirds, herbs of your choice and a few cloves of garlic. Throw some salt and pepper down into there as well.
Then tie the legs together with some string.
Generously grease the outside of the turkey with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in your roasting pan, breast side up.
Roasting the turkey
You’ll want to start with a very hot oven, set to 400 degrees. Roast the bird breast-side up for about 30 minutes to get the underbelly nicely browned. Then, reduce the oven temperature to 350 and roast for and additional 20 minutes per pound, basting periodically.
When the turkey measures done, remove it from the oven and allow it to “rest” for 20 minutes before carving. This is so all of the juices don’t leak out as soon as you cut into it.
Stuffing the turkey (or not)
Though it’s called stuffing, most people agree that it’s best to cook the stuffing in a separate casserole dish, rather than baking it inside the cavity of the bird. You might lose out on a bit of the flavor, but it will be healthier in the long run. It also allows your turkey to cook a bit more quickly.
No instructions. Just give thanks, and enjoy!