Here are eight common mistakes people make with their Thanksgiving turkey . . .
1. Not thawing it out soon enough. A 12-to-16 pound turkey takes FOUR DAYS to thaw in the fridge, meaning you should have moved it from the freezer to the fridge YESTERDAY. If it’s bigger than that, it might take five days. If it’s smaller, two to three.
If you forgot, you can still thaw it in cold water though, which takes about 30 minutes per pound. So for a 16-pound turkey, that’s 8 hours.
2. Brining a turkey that’s already been brined. Check the label, and if it says it contains something like “8% water, salt, and spices”, you don’t need to brine it.
3. Keeping it in the fridge until you’re ready to put it in the oven. You should let it sit in the pan at room temperature for about an hour first to help it cook evenly.
4. Turning down the oven when the skin browns too quickly. Once it’s in there, you shouldn’t mess with the temperature too much. And you can keep the skin from burning by putting aluminum foil over it.
5. Basting it while it’s in the oven. Some people swear by it, but you lose heat every time you open the door, so it takes longer to cook. Plus drowning it in the liquid at the bottom of the pan can actually make the skin soggy and dry the meat out.
6. Not using a meat thermometer. A lot of turkeys come with that little red thing that pops up when it’s “done.” But they’re not that accurate, and a lot of them don’t pop up until it hits 180 degrees, which is too hot. The perfect temperature is really 160 or 165.
7. Carving the turkey as soon as it’s out of the oven. You should actually wait 15 minutes, so the juices have time to soak back into the meat.
8. Carving the entire turkey at once. It’s fine if you’re gonna eat it all on Thanksgiving. But if you’re saving leftovers, they’ll dry out in the fridge. So it’s better to cut off one of the legs and breasts . . . put them in the refrigerator whole . . . and just cut off slices whenever you want them.