Thanksgiving 2020 is almost upon us, and after the year we’ve all had, we certainly deserve a day to indulge ourselves with a spectacular Thanksgiving dinner. Of all the Thanksgiving food on offer each year, the biggest point of contention is always, how to cook a turkey perfectly. Many of us have our family turkey recipes that we swear by, with the familiar mantra of, “no one makes Thanksgiving dinner as well as my folks”, and we all look forward to heading home for a long weekend with all of our favorite food. However, this year, a lot of us might not be able to get home for Thanksgiving 2020 with COVID-19 dictating our travel plans. But do not despair. You can still enjoy a tremendous Thanksgiving dinner wherever you are. We’ve got some tips and advice for anyone cooking a turkey for the first time, so keep reading and start planning your own epic feast. After this turkey recipe, you’ll be more stuffed than the bird was before it went into the oven, and you’ll need some ideas for your Thanksgiving leftovers.
What you need to know before making Thanksgiving dinner
If you’re new to prepping Thanksgiving dinner and you’re worried about the need-to-knows about how to cook a turkey, there are a few things that are worth remembering before you even get to the prep. In an ideal world, you’ll have a fresh turkey to cook, but realistically, it may be more convenient to buy a frozen turkey ahead of time. If you opt for the frozen bird, then make sure it hasn’t been frozen with added water, and allow plenty of time for it to defrost slowly and completely. How long you need to defrost your turkey depends entirely on the size of it, so make sure you have double-checked the recommended times in good time. A good guideline is allowing 24 hours of fridge thawing for every 5 pounds of frozen turkey, so four full days of thawing in the fridge for a 20-pound turkey.
The best way to cook a turkey
This is where we become potentially contentious, as the best way to cook a turkey depends in no small part on who you ask. However, we have our own advice on how to cook a turkey, and it’s a guaranteed feast in the making. So if this is your first time making a Thanksgiving meal, or you just want a new way of cooking your turkey, keep reading for a step by step guide for cooking a turkey. We’ve put this guide together based on the turkey being 14lbs (6.5kg), which is a good size for the average family.
Keep reading to find out how to cook a turkey for your Thanksgiving meal
- First things first, make sure everything—turkey, stuffing, and the rest—are completely defrosted. If the bird and/or stuffing aren’t completely defrosted, you could risk giving yourself and your guests food poisoning, especially if you’re Thanksgiving stuffing recipe is meat-based. Next up, preheat the oven. For a turkey this size, we recommend preheating the oven at gas mark 7/425°F/220°C.
- The messy part: at this point, you’ve settled on your turkey stuffing recipe, so get stuffing that bird! Loosen the skin of the defrosted turkey, and stuff your stuffing into the neck end. Don’t pack it too tightly as it will expand while cooking, but get a good amount in there. You won’t be able to get all the stuffing into the neck cavity, so once you’ve filled the top half, get going in the body cavity.
- Get the turkey oven-ready. Put two large pieces of foil into your roasting tray, one widthways, the other lengthways, and lay the turkey on its back. Cover it with butter and seasoning, and then lay bacon strips over the breast of the turkey with the rashers overlapping each other.
- Finally, wrap the foil around the turkey. While the foil should be sealed tightly, you want to leave enough space inside the parcel to allow heat and air on the upper part of the turkey.
How long to cook a turkey for thanksgiving dinner
It may seem obvious, but how long to cook a turkey depends entirely on its size. The 14 lbs turkey we’ve talked about should be cooked at the initial heat used for pre-heating for 40 minutes, and then lowered to gas mark 3/325°F/170°C. After another three hours at this heat, remove the foil, put the temperature up to gas mask 6/400°F/200°C, and baste regularly for another 45 minutes. The turkey should be ready for your Thanksgiving dinner after resting for roughly 40 minutes. Now you can sit at the table with pride while everyone enjoys the incredible Thanksgiving meal you’ve created. So put your feet up after dinner. You’ve definitely earned the lion’s share of the pumpkin pie!