I've never cooked a turkey, any good recipes? Help

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by phoebe1, Dec 5, 2006.

  1. phoebe1

    phoebe1 New Member

    I have to make a turkey for christmas, it is not really a popular dish in my country and people don't eat it that much but we decided we'll try something different this christmas and have a turkey, and I'm the one who got nominated :) Which is very ironic because I don't cook...

    So I really need your help in this as it seems that turkey is a very popular and traditional thing in the USA. My grandmother gave me a few tips she said I must get a big pot of water boiling and dip the turkey in there a few times to get rid of the "funny" taste? Whatever that means :) Then she said I must stuff it, I don't know with what apparantly you can buy a chicken stuffing to use for the turkey and then I must roast it in the oven in a baking bag for about 3-4 hours. Does this sound right?
    And where do you put the stuffing?

    I've never eaten turkey myself except once I had a small piece of turkey breast, I thought it tasted ok.
    What type of sauce does one serve with a turkey? I've heard people make a cranberry sauce but we don't have cranberries readily available here so that would be difficult.
    How many people can I feed with one turkey? I don't know if I must make 1 or 2, we are going to be 6 adults and a few kids.

    Thanks for your help! I feel so stupid posting this :)
  2. hugs4evry1

    hugs4evry1 New Member

    To answer your questions, I'll start with a question of my own. Will you be buying a frozen turkey from the grocery store?

    Start by thawing it early depending on the size. Americans can buy up to a 20 pound turkey (8 or 9 kilos) and these huge birds need to be thawed in the refrigerator a few days in advance.

    To feed 6 adults you probably won't need one that large. That's why we have so many leftover turkey recipes for after the holidays.

    To cook the bird, it is not necessary to 'stuff' the bird first. That's an American traditional recipe and each of us has a different twist on the stuffing.

    My Mom made hers with stale bread (kept frozen throughout the months before and remember, American bread has preservatives in it) celery, onion, sage, egg, and a few other spices. Many others have apples, raisins etc...to make theirs different.

    But if you stuff the bird first, do so immediately before placing the turkey in the oven. The stuffing has egg in it and if stuffed in advance, stomach upset is guaranteed. I can vouch for this personally. I once ate at a friend's house and was severely sick all night long due to this.

    The stuffing goes in the neck cavity, some can be put up the butt too. Also be sure to check the thawed turkey for any plastic bag with the neck and organs which are traditionally boiled to make the broth for the gravy too.

    The turkey does NOT need to be roasted in a bag and 3 or 4 hours doesn't sound like enough time unless it's a very small bird.

    If it's a very large bird, you'll be up early to begin roasting on the bottom side first so each side will be browned. (Most of our prepackaged frozen turkeys come with cooking instructions) We traditionally ate our turkey dinner at about 4:00 in the afternoon.

    When I roast a turkey I squeeze lemon juice on the top side of skin first and season it with a bit of garlic powder. It helps the skin cook up nicely and gives it just a hint of flavor. Many need to be basted during cooking to keep the meat moist and the skin from burning. Tenting about halfway through cooking with aluminum foil will also help to keep the legs and skin from burning.

    Please don't feel you need to dip a turkey in boiling water first. I've never heard of this and turkey doesn't have a 'funny taste' although perhaps in your grandmother's day it may have had a wild type of flavor to it. This also sounds very dangerous too.

    As for the cranberry sauce, many of us Americans buy ours in a can already prepared or ready for our own personal recipes. I'd be quite surprised to find many of us boiling fresh cranberries to start our day.

    We also make easy side dishes to go along with the turkey like mashed/smashed potatoes and they're easy too. Just boil some cut up potatoes until soft, drain and add some milk and butter then season to taste. Many just season with salt and pepper, I like to add garlic, sour cream, parmesian cheese, chives, fresh parsley and whatever's handy.

    Traditionally after the turkey is done baking (try wiggling the leg to see if it is loose) we make gravy with the drippings from the bottom of the pan. Add broth or water, stir to get the good stuff up then add seasonings and flour to thicken. We tend to like our gravy all over the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes.

    I hope I didn't simplify too much, but you did mention that you didn't cook much. And all the others will have different suggestions on how they cook their turkeys too.

    Wishing you much luck and success...


    Nancy B
  3. joyfully

    joyfully New Member

    Are you roasting a full turkey, or are you roasting just the turkey breast?

    The only thing I have ever known about putting a turkey in boiling water is if you have to defeather it. You put the deheaded and gutted bird in very hot water--let it sit for a couple of minutes, take it out of the hot water and wrap the entire bird in several layers of newspaper. Then you unwrap the bird and "check" to see if the feathers will come out when given a slight tug. If not, rewrap and wait a couple of more minutes. You pull the feathers out in the direction that they grew. That way, the entire feather base comes out.

    So a couple basic questions.
    Is the turkey alive?
    Do you have to butcher it and defeather it?
    Is it a cleaned and frozen turkey?
    Do you want bread or cornbread stuffing?

    Is the turkey "prebasted"? It will tell you on the plastic wrapper if it has been prebasted.

    So answer these questions and I'll try to also give you some info. on roasting a turkey.

    Do you have a roaster? Can you get aluminum foil?

    I don't know where you live. ------- I just looked. I know nothing about S. Africa, so please don't laugh at my basic questions.

    By any chance, do they have extra large clear plastic baking bags in your grocery stores?

    I'm just atteppting to think of some alternative ways to help you cook the turkey.

    If you stuff the bird, NEVER compress the dressing--or it wil be waaaaaaaaaaay to dense. Lightly put the dressing/stuffing in the turkey. The turkey is done when the internal temperature of the center of the DRESSING/STUFFING is 165 degrees FARENHEIT. if you have a meat thermometer, insert it into the dressing cavity near the end of the baking process to ensure that you neither underbake or over bake the turkey.

    I normally lightly "tent " the turkey during this resting period.

    I'll send you some additional information/recipes about roasting the turkey and dressing. My fingers have worn out.
    [This Message was Edited on 12/05/2006]
  4. phoebe1

    phoebe1 New Member

    Thanks Nancy and Joyfully for responding, I will have to print out your posts.
    I will definitely be buying a clean frozen whole turkey. Nancy you are right, my gran said something about a "wild" taste and that is why she said to dip it in boiling water.
    I don't think I will buy a 9 kilo turkey, or maybe I will I don't know how big they are, I will use the thermometer like Joyfully said to see when it's done, what is 165F in degrees celsius?

    I'm not sure I want to make a stuffing, it sounds like a lot of added effort for someone who doesn't like to cook. If I can make a nice turkey without the stuffing I will rather do that, otherwise I will buy a stuffing. I didn't know that I have to turn the turkey, I thought it's like chicken where you just leave it on one side and it cooks through. I already bought a giant size baking bag, but how do you turn the thing in a bag? Because I usually make a few holes in the bag, if I turn it all the sauce will come out. Or must I just put some foil over from the start and leave the baking bag?

    I'm sure that you can see I'm a real dummy in the kitchen! Except for the lemon juice and garlic, what should I season it with before I put it in the oven?

  5. sues1

    sues1 New Member

    Turkey is easy to cook. Can use the bag or put in a roaster pan and cover (foil if no lid) or an electric roaster. I do not ever turn mine.

    Turkey wrapper should show you how many servings you will get and length of time to cook it, depending on the size. You will not need a large turkey for 6 people.

    I cook it during the year, mostly a large breast of turkey. My hubby loves it. In summer I use my electric roaster, does not heat up the house. Really I rarely anymore cook it in the oven.

    Be careful in defrosting.keep cold. Rinse out the large cavity. I then either stuff it or put as is in the roaster. I like to melt a little butter with a block of Chicken flavored bouillion cube or two...here in the states I usually get Knoor's brand, but about any would be good. Crumble the cube into the butter. Mix a little, It will still be somewhat lumpy. Slowly drizzle over the turkey, on legs also and sides. Concentrate more on the top. I cook it right side up.

    Follow directions on the frozen turkey on time. Check if done by moving the leg. If it is "free" and moves very easy, it should be done.

    Do not put turkey with dressing still in it afterwards in the refrigerator. (Dressing also called Stuffing)

    When you put the turkey on to cook, you can take the giblets, all that yukky looking stuff, LOL, and boil in a little water until done. Good to add a... little.. onion and celery to that as it cooks. Remove giblets. You can cut it up and add to broth, or feed it to your pet.....LOL. Makes great base to add to the dripping of the turkey, after you remove the turkey from the pan, for gravy.

    I feel that a large grocery store would also have canned or in jar, turkey gravy. Might have that on hand just in case you gravy flops. They also might have canned cranberry sauce. I like it with the berrys in it. One can is enough to get a some might not like it or eat it.

    HINT: Use a search engine, like Google.....and look up cooking turkey or turkey gravy....you will get a lot of ideas there. I only use the bouillon cube(s) any more and do not add even salt and it is tasty and moist. I do not like garlic or such on the turkey. We also have poultry seasoning here that I use in making stuffing. With lots of celery and onions. That is the basic way. Add a little broth to your dressing if you cook it a lone. Can use cube that I mentioned or canned chicken broth.

    Good Luck................Susan
  6. hugs4evry1

    hugs4evry1 New Member

    I don't think you'll have to turn a smaller turkey, just those huge ones.

    I've never done one in a baking bag so maybe the others will have more suggestions there.


    Nancy B
  7. elliespad

    elliespad Member

    This is an EASY meal to make. I love a turkey cooked in an oven bag. Also, a turkey with a pop-up timer takes the guess work out of knowing when it's done, but definatley not necessary.

    Tablespoon of flour in bag.
    Rinse bird under cool water, remove any giblets
    Can boil the giblets to use the water in gravy.
    Salt and any seasonings you personaly like
    Stick in the bag, attach tie, stick few holes in top of bag
    Cooking in a bag cuts the cooking time WAY DOWN. It will likely be done in 3-4 hours. Takes longer without a bag.

    I would definately buy a boxed, or prepared stuffing. The gravy is key to a great turkey dinner, in my book.

    Common side dishes are,

    mashed potatoes
    candied yams
    cranberry sauce
    numerous condiments, olives, pickles, etc
    mashed rutabega
    any favorite vegetables, either served plain, or made into casseroles
    GRAVY is key to success, I personally like to use Corn Starch mixed in water, to thicken gravy as it is smoother consistency, but used flour and water for years. Doesn't seem to change taste at all.

    There is ALWAYS too many pies offered for dessert. Common pie is Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie, Mince Meat, Pecan Pie, but Pumpkin is the traditional Thanksgiving Pie. Can buy it or make it homemade. Recipe is on a can of pumpkin, and is REALLY easy.

    Good thing you're all the way in South Africa or we'd all be crashing your party for yummy turkey dinner. Enjoy.
    [This Message was Edited on 12/06/2006]
  8. abcanada

    abcanada New Member

    Hi, I haven't had time to read the other posts but I would like to give you a few tips to ensure a great bird. My husband is a Meat Manager and I've spent time working in local grocery stores educating people on different meat choices & recipes etc.
    I would say 12-15lbs in more than enough for 6 adults unless you want leftovers. General rule with meat is 1/2-lb per person, 1-lb / man! Also wash bird(more to rinse germs, not taste). Make sure the inside is cleaned well, and dry thoroughly before stuffing(or it will get too soggy). Also make sure bird in elevated from juices(or stuffing will get too soggy). Don't add water to pan. Browning at the bottom increases flavor of gravy. We've smoked our birds the last few years for about 45 minutes which gives an excellent flavor. Then cook in the oven. I'm also going to throw in my stuffing recipe.....Awesome, comes from my husbands side of the family. GOOD LUCK, and feel free to ask me anything.

    Edwards Family Stuffing

    6-8 cups semi dry bread crumbs
    1-2 cups cooked ground meat or sausage chopped small
    2 celery stalks chopped
    1 small onion chopped
    1-1 1/2 TBSPS ground sage
    Salt/Pepper to taste

    These are all the extras you can throw in depending on what you like

    1 cup uncooked minute rice
    3/4 cup cranberries
    3/4 cup chopped apple
    1 cup sauteed mushrooms
    Cut up & sauteed gizzard & heart from bird

    This will be a very dry mixture. Stuff entire cavity of bird & neck area if you need. You may need to sew this area up or use cooking skewers so stuffing doesn't fall out. Any left over stuffing can be cooked in casserole dish. Moisture from bird will moisten stuffing. Take Care, Laura
  9. Smiffy

    Smiffy Member

    The important thing to do is cook it UPSIDE DOWN so it doesn't dry out (took me years of dried up turkey to discover this!).

    Put a halved lemon in the cavity to soften the flesh as it cooks.

    Put lots of bacon rind or streaky bacon & some buttered foil on top,including legs & wings, but don't wrap it. Put extra foil round the limbs as they cook the fastest.

    Stand the pan or trivet in a pan of water, & top up the water from a jug as it evaporates (this again stops it from drying out).

    Start it off really hot for a few minutes to kill any bacteria, then turn down to whatever temperature you are cooking it.

    Take it out of the oven half an hour to allow the meat to rest before carving (now you can turn the oven up for the potatoes & pigs in blankets), & wrap in e.g. extra foil or tea towels to keep it warm.

    You might want to put foil across the bottom of the oven before you start cooking - this saves having to scrub it afterwards.

    good luck!
  10. Redwillow

    Redwillow New Member

    Wow Phoebe

    You have lots of different advice. It seems like there are lots of ways to cook a turkey.

    My parents live just down the road from us and our family still gathers there for Christmas. My parents are both 82 and still living at their own home.

    The last few years the turkey has been made at my house and then taken to my parents. This is the only part of the Christmas preparations that my Mom has allowed someone to take over.

    The turkey is cooked in a roast pan that my parents were given as a wedding gift 62 years ago. We put the turkey in the pan with an inch of water to use to baste the turkey. For us a fresh turkey that hasn't been frozen is best. We buy it from a local farmer. They are so much moister than the frozen ones!

    My husband takes pride in basting the turkey every 1/2 hour until it is golden brown! It makes it brown and very moist!

    Inside the turkey we stuff the cavity with a bread crumb recipe that was also my Mother's recipe. It is a combination of stale bread cut in small cubes, poultry seasoning, diced celery and onion. Then you moisten it with water and stuff the bird!

    The rest of the meal is mashed potatoes, gravy, cooked vegetables like carrots, peas, mashed turnips, fresh rolls, cranberry sauce and more! My mother makes a fabulous chopped cabbage salad that her Grandchildren call Gramma salad!

    Then my Mother also serves fresh baked apple, pumpkin, raisin or lemon pies with ice cream! you can imagine that we are all stuffed after a feast like this. We usually eat left overs for days!

    Have fun with your meal!

    hugs Redwillow
  11. joyfully

    joyfully New Member

    Me again. Please tell me that they aren't expecting you to cook the ENTIRE meal. This is waaaaaaaaay too much for you to do; especially since you indicate that you don't normally cook.

    What do you do? Assign some of the other dishes to the wives who are coming. Dessert, vegetable (usually greenbean casserole with cream of mushroom soup----canned fried onion rings put over top just 5 minutes before casserole leaves the oven), etc. It isn't right or fair to expect you to cook the entire meal. For large Holiday events, we normally divide the work load so everyone can enjoy the event and not be in "overload".

    The boxed stuffing sounds like an excellent idea. I'd cut up onions and celery and lightly cook them in about a tablespoon of margarine before mixing in with the stuffing mix. This will give it more of a "home made" taste. You can also add some applesauce, raisins, cooked pork sausage, etc. What do yo like in stuffing???

    I never heard of lemon and garlic in a turkey. That doesn't mean you can't do it, I've just never heard of cooking a turkey this way. Normally it is chicken bullion cubes and butter. You can put some aromatic vegetables or herbs in the turkey cavity if you don't want to put the stuffing in there. Onions, or shallots, or celery ribs, liberally salt and pepper the cavity . Oh, if you used several chicken bullion cubes inside of the cavity, don't use much additional salt as the bullion cubes are full of salt.

    It takes a couple of days to defrost a turkey in the refrigerator. Set the frozen bird in a cake pan with paper towels under the bird. This will keep any defrosted raw turkey juice from running down through your refrigerator and contaminating stuff in your produce drawers.

    You definitely want that turkey defrosted or it will cause the outside of the bird to overcook to get the meat deeper into the bird to get cooked. You don't want to have to use the first part of the cooking process to finish defrosting the bird in the oven. Does that make sense/????

    Oh, there are usually 2 chunks of liver still adhering to the turkey cavity right by the spinal column. They will be recessed in a pocket on either side of the spine. look about 3 inches in from the tail and that will be a close approximation to their location. Wash the inside cavity well before stuffing.

    I boil up the bag of giblets, but I don't use them in the dressing or the gravy. They are strong. Please don't give the liver or the gizzard to your dog because this can lead to acute pancreatitis (or was it liver failure???)

    My vet called it "turkeyitis". We almost lost our dear little schnauzer from doing this. The emergency vet told us that one of the busiest nights of the year in the vet ER is the night after Thanksgiving because of people feeding their dogs these "treats".

    I roast my turkey breast side up. Breast side down is wonderful if you have the special meat holder, but I don't have one. The secret to the meat not drying out is to make a foil hat similar to Peter Pan's hat. This gets put over the delicate white breast meat about 2/3 of the way through the cooking process. I usually smear butter on the inside of this "tent" before sitting it on the turkey breast so the foil doesn't stick to the skin.

    The foil reflects the heat and keeps the breast from over cooking. It also catches the steam and kinda' bastes the area. When the breast turns light brown, I put the foil tent on it.

    Please don't attempt to do all of this meal by yourself, it is too much.

    Also, who is going to carve this bird???? If your hubby isn't planning to do it, I'd carve it BEFORE you serve (and after it has set at least 20 minutes after taking it out of the oven). Put the slices in a warmed casserole dish and pour hot gravy or hot chicken broth over the turkey slices. That will keep them hot AND it will also keep the slices from drying out.

    You can turn down the oven to low, cover the casserole dish with foil or the lid, and take it out when you are going to serve. I'd also serve "buffet style". Do you have a countertop that you can put a bunch of heat proof pot holders down or trivets??? Place the food in a visually pleasant lay out AND HAVE EVERYONE GO THROUGH CAFETERIA STYLE. This will be sooooooooooo much easier on you. I even put the plates at the front of the serving area. I have the silverware already on the table. The people take their plate, help themselves, and go sit down.

    We say grace while we are in a circle by the counter where the food is being served. That way, the first person who goes through the line isn't sitting there with their food getting cold while everyone else is still serving themselves.

    While you are eating, I put the pie back inthe oven to reheat using the left over heat from the oven to warm it.

    I serve the dessert at the table .

    If someone wants seconds, I notice when the people are just about finished with the first helping and coax people to please feel free to get more food. This is so much easier than everyone passing stuff around the table. Oh, I put the salt, pepper, butter, and rolls on the table. I even put a second gravy boat on the table with a small plate underneath it. Otherwise, the rest of the food is in the serving area.
    [This Message was Edited on 12/06/2006]
    [This Message was Edited on 12/06/2006]
  12. phoebe1

    phoebe1 New Member

    Thank you so much everyone for your cooking tips, I can see that if I didn't ask the turkey would have been a major disaster! :)
    Luckily I'm not cooking the whole meal, just the turkey, we are going to my in-laws for christmas so I'll ask my mil and sil to make the rest of the dishes. I suppose my hubby will carve it, I hope there isn't any special techniques involved because since we have never eaten a turkey we have never carved one!
    I wonder if I should make one before christmas, just as a test?
    All of your ideas sound delicious, I actually can't wait to start cooking!
    The only thing that bothers me is the livers that I must take out, can u buy it without any organs because just the thought of me having to remove organs makes me want to faint! lol
    If I can't I'll have to ask my hubby very nicely.

    [This Message was Edited on 12/06/2006]
  13. kiki2three

    kiki2three New Member

    Hun first of all, it's going to be great, you can do this.
    We do just turkey breast here and I buy 2 three lb breast and feed 8 adults, But either way whole turkey or turkey breast if fix the same way.
    I do use the bag like u mentioned, I take a stick of margarine and rub over turkey after washing turkey, then I add poultry seasoning. if whole turkey I also put some in cavity. otherwise just on outside.
    Bake depending on how large but if whole turkey leg should move freely when done.
    Mine comes out very moist and good and yes you carve it like you would a chicken and bake basicly the same way.
    I'm from the south and We make a cornbread dressing that we bake in seperate pan and then serve on side with gravy.
    Also we buy the cranberry sauce already made in can.
    As you can tell everyone has different traditions, but just make what is ur families favorites and you'll have a great dinner.
    As for our family this is a typical Christmas dinner for us:
    Turkey, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, broccoli cornbread, english pea salad, green salad, pasta salad, corn, and some type of beans (snap, french etc) also yeast rolls, Desserts are usually pecan pie, coconut cake, sweet potato pie, oatmeal cake, then candies, divinity, fudge, fruitcake cookies, creamcheese cookies etc. But again this is every families own tradition, ours is what is favorites foods for family members. and we all pitch in and make it.
    If I can help you in any way please let me know,
    Love, Hugs and Prayers,
    Happy Holidays
  14. Smiffy

    Smiffy Member

    I don't know about South Africa, but in the UK the innards usually come in a plastic bag inside the turkey - I just throw it away!

    The advice we're given here is to cook the stuffing separately so that the turkey cooks right through & any salmonella is killed.
  15. abcanada

    abcanada New Member

    You usually don't get anything but a gizzard and heart. Sometimes the liver, but yah it's in a bag so chuck it. Treat it like a roasted chicken if you've ever done that! Good Luck, Laura PS Cook very low heat 300-325. If neccesary turn up & brown at the end.
    [This Message was Edited on 12/07/2006]
  16. happycanuk

    happycanuk New Member

    A turkey is one of the easiest things to cook. I have never, in my life, turned a turkey and it is always nice and moist.

    I usually put it in the over around 5:30 a.m. as we eat around 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. I put a little butter on the top and sprinkle on Salt and Pepper. When I was in Denmark, I saw that they stuffed the turkey with prunes and apples, and Ihave done that on occassion. It makes the turkey really good.

    I also put tinfoil on the wings and the legs as they will burn if you don't. At some point in cooking this bird, I also put tinfoil over the breast and I baste it often. I also throw away the giblegs. They are usually in a bag stuffed in the cavity, along with the neck.

    Good luck with your turkey.
  17. joyfully

    joyfully New Member

    Hi. I didn't mean to imply that you have to remove the entire liver, the processors seem to just not always get the ENTIRE liver out. You can visually see the two spots if any of the liver is left in the cavity by the spine. It will be two dark brownish purple spots on either side of the spinal column. Use the end of a spoon handle to scoop out this tablespoon sized piece of remaining liver on each side of the spine. That way, you won't even have to touch it if that makes you squeemish.

    Remember, none of the liver may even still be loose inside of the bird's cavity. maybe they take more time cleaning the inside of the bird than they do in the US.
  18. Denamay

    Denamay New Member

    The recipies and hints all sound very good.

    I just have a note re. your grandmothers suggestion to dip the turkey in water before cooking.

    I have a friend who lived in S. Africa and she said that, "the turkey there is not of the same quality as in North America, tougher and not the same flavor," so maybe granny is right?

    Best Wishes Denamay
  19. hugs4evry1

    hugs4evry1 New Member

    You must be thoroughly confused by now with all the different ways to cook a turkey. Luckily, they all sound wonderful and they're even making me hungry too!!!

    The idea of lemon and garlic powder can be used for a lower fat version if someone has dietary restrictions. Also as someone mentioned you can leave the lemon halves in the cavity of the bird for extra moistness. I roast my chickens the same way.

    Buttering the turkey is how we always did it in the past but years ago I started using the lemon juice and garlic and it not only works the same way by making the skin crispy and good, it just takes some calories away.

    I also think if you're unsure, cook a little one soon and see how it turns out.

    Hugs and best of luck,

    Nancy B

    PS. I can't wait to hear how it turns out for you!![This Message was Edited on 12/07/2006]
  20. phoebe1

    phoebe1 New Member

    With all the great advice I have received I'm sure the turkey will be a winner! I will look out for the liver spots on the inside and Denamay, you may be right because we don't really eat turkey here so I won't be surprised if it's not the same quality.
    I am going to print out all your posts and start cookin! I will let you know how it turned out :)