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Yes, You Can Handle Cooking a Whole Turkey and Here’s How

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Stressed about hosting the big dinner? Don’t be. They’re just simple, homey recipes that you can totally master. Kitchn and OXO sent Faith Durand, our editor-in-chief, into two newbie hosts’ home to prove it. In four episodes, we’ll send you into Turkey Day more excited and confident than ever before. Let’s jump right in and take on the turkey…

Yep, it’s turkey time! If this is your first time taking on the dinner, don’t worry. Hosting Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Just have Faith! No, really, just have Faith’s tips on hand and you’ll be fine. She knows how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey like nobody’s business.

Today we’re talking turkey, the main attraction for any Thanksgiving dinner. As Faith shows, it’s actually a pretty simple preparation. Just make sure you have some essential tools on hand (we’ve rounded up the little things you’re likely to forget below) and some key tips on your mind (keep reading).

The Days Before

Step 1: Thaw your turkey. We’ll say it again, but this time in all caps so you do not forget it: THAW YOUR TURKEY. A week before you cook it, put the frozen bird in the fridge and just let it hang. And that’s it.

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(Image credit: Tanya Lacourse)

Then, a couple days before game day, brine your turkey. This step guarantees a moist, tender turkey even if you overcook it just a little bit. You can keep it simple by dry brining it with just some salt and seasonings. This method gets all your turkey prep done well in advance. Which brings us to…

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(Image credit: Creative Studio)

The Day Of

This is probably the part you’re most worried about. Chill out. You’re not going to stuff, tie, or truss your bird; no one needs any of that, and it makes it cook slower. You’re just going to let it settle on a rack — we like OXO’s Silicone Roasting Rack because helps air circulate around the bird for a faster, more even roast — and put it into a preheated (to 450ºF) oven with two cups of broth or water in the roasting pan, then turn the heat down to 350ºF and walk away.

While the turkey’s roasting, all you need to do is baste it every hour or so to keep everything flavorful. An Angled Baster lets you get into the pan and maneuver around the bird without burning your hand. (Hot tip?) Don’t stress if you miss a basting or two, but a good kitchen timer will help keep you on task — especially one that keeps track of three things cooking at once. Also, even if your oven is brand new, don’t trust it. Built-in oven thermometers are notoriously finicky, but a simple oven thermometer is an affordable upgrade that will help you out here. And yes, pro chefs actually do use these!

Plan on roasting the bird for about 13 minutes per pound. But, your exact time will be determined by your bird, your oven, and a few other variables. Your turkey is done when a Digital Instant Thermometer shows that the inner thigh has reached 165ºF. Tip: keep an extra close eye on the timer when the turkey is within 10 degrees of being done to avoid overcooking. Nobody likes a dry turkey.

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(Image credit: Tanya Lacourse)

The Final Moments

Specifically, the final 30 minutes. Let the bird rest a half hour before you even think of carving it. You can take this time to do some fake-fancy garnishing. Remember those crab apples you saw at the farmers’ market last week but didn’t know what to do with? This is their moment. Grab a few garnishes for your turkey platter — tiny apples, sage leaves, herbs, whatever — and put them alongside the entrée. Everyone will be impressed!

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Congratulations. You have completed your turkey roasting certificate and are hereby cleared to cook your family a gorgeous, delicious Thanksgiving main course. Now all you need are the sides, the pies, and some tips to pull off the whole thing, and you’ve got yourself a dinner. And Faith’s got your back there, too…

This post is sponsored by OXO and was created by the Kitchn Creative Studio.
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