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Turkeys make the best roasts for special occasions and can be used daily in many dishes. While many are more interested in how to roast a turkey, how you prepare the bird is also very important. Learning how to prepare a turkey properly can maximize the flavor and prevent harmful bacteria from ruining your meal.
Steps for Preparing a Turkey
Preparing a turkey for cooking involves thawing it properly, cleaning and brining the meat. Safe thawing techniques are crucial because turkey can be invaded by bacteria if care is not taken. It is also good practice to remove the giblets before cooking. Brining meat has more to do with flavor and texture than food safety. It is an optional technique cooks can use to soften meat and give it additional moisture.
How to Prepare a Turkey: Thawing
The first lesson on how to prepare a turkey is to defrost or thaw the bird correctly. Turkey can be thawed using cold water or refrigerator thawing. Many people make the mistake of defrosting turkey in the microwave. Microwave defrosting not only leads to uneven heating, but can bread bacteria as well. It is also not safe to defrost turkey in room temperature.
Cold Water Thawing
Take frozen turkey from the freezer and make sure its packaging is still intact. If the packaging is torn, transfer the bird into a sealable bag.
Fill a basin with cold water. Make sure there is enough water to fully submerge the turkey. To determine thawing time, add 30 minutes to every pound the bird weighs. A 1-pound turkey, for instance, can be soaked for 30 and a 2-pound bird for an hour. Change the water and refill every 30 minutes.
It is recommended that turkey defrosted using a cold water bath be cooked immediately after thawing is complete. Do not re-freeze it.
Thawing a turkey in the fridge is straightforward and very simple. Just transfer the turkey from the freezer to the fridge and let it defrost for at least 24 hours. This method is best for larger birds. If your turkey is larger than 12 pounds, allow 3-4 days of thawing. If it’s heavier than 16 pounds, thaw it for 4-5 days and those heavier than 20 pounds for 5-6 days. Make sure packaging is sealed.
How to Prepare a Turkey: Cleaning
Cleaning a turkey involves removing the packaging completely and pulling out the giblets. To find the giblets, you have to reach inside the bird’s cavity with a hand. Giblets are either in the main cavity or in the neck between the wings. Remove the neck, gizzards, heart and liver. Rinse the inside and exterior of turkey with cold water and dry with a clean paper towel.
How to Prepare a Turkey: Brining
Brining is basically soaking turkey in a salt water solution to make the meat tenderer. A typical brining solution is made with 1 tablespoon salt per 1 cup plain water. Use this ratio to make as much brining solution as you need to cover the bird. It is advisable to brine overnight. Kosher salt is recommended.
Once you successfully prepare your turkey, try to cook it using these turkey recipes: