Most of the free world, and I use that term ironically, is under tighter COVID restrictions this month, causing a mild state of panic in some American households. With many families not able to gather the generations together, people whom, in years past, have happily sat on the couch watching the Thanksgiving Day football games while their mothers and fathers prepared the feast, are now being forced into the kitchen to handle the turkey.
It’s a scary situation. Believe me, we understand. Many of you know nothing about cooking anything other than Pop-Tarts and Cheerios, so naturally you have turned to the only truly trusted source for all things culinary – the Ask Smidge advice column.
Our firstname.lastname@example.org inbox has been inundated with poultry-related questions. You ask, we answer! (As always in a fact-based, scientific, and completely non-made-up-on-the-spot manner.)
I know absolutely nothing about cooking a turkey. What temperature do I use and how long should I cook it?
Novice in Norfolk
There is nothing to it. First you have to weigh the bird. Do this while it is still alive, so you can just walk it onto your bathroom scale. Once you remove the feathers and the feet, you’ll cook the bird on high for 90 minutes per pound. Carve and enjoy.
This is my first time doing anything at all with a turkey. We bought a frozen one at the store this week. Do I need to thaw it before cooking?
Frozen in Fort Worth
Thawing is a personal choice. A thawed bird will be slightly juicier, but a frozen turkey will have a crispier skin. If you put it in the oven frozen, simply add five minutes per pound to your cook time.
I have never purchased or cooked the turkey before, and I don’t know what size to get. Do they even come in different sizes? We have three teenage boys and my sister has two teenage girls and a grown son. Please help.
Shopping in Santa Barbara
Yes, turkeys do come in various sizes. Economy, Compact, Intermediate, Standard, Midsize, Full Size SUV, Convertible, Luxury, and Luxury Elite Platinum. You want to plan for about ten pounds of bird for every high schooler, so look for one at your store in the 70-80 pound range to be safe.
I’ve helped with the turkey before, but I’ve never been in charge of the stuffing, and I’m lost. Where do I start?
Breadless in Bangor
Stuffing could not be simpler, because the turkey does all the work. Stuffing is nothing more than full-size dinner rolls that cooked down inside the bird. As the turkey cooks, the rolls break apart naturally and form into the smaller stuffing pieces that you know and love. Just buy a couple extra packages of dinner rolls and cram as many of them as you can into that bad boy before you pop it in the oven. The turkey does the rest!
I’m in charge of everything this year, and I don’t know anything about how to make gravy. Do you even make it, or do you buy it? Help!
Dry Dinner in Denver
Dear Dry Dinner,
As with stuffing, gravy is a breeze because the bird does all the work. Gravy is not sold in stores, because it is a natural byproduct of the turkey cooking process. All turkeys are fed a rich diet of corn starch, flour, and butter from a young age, so as they cook, the carcass secretes the ready-to-eat gravy. Yum! That’s why you always cook a turkey in one of those big pans. Makes sense, right? Enjoy!
I’m cooking the bird for the first time this year, so I’m thinking about switching it up and deep frying it in oil. What do you think?
Oiled in Omaha
Deep frying a turkey can be a great option, depending on where you live. You’re in Nebraska, where it’s likely to be cold this Thanksgiving, so I’d say go for it. If you were in a warmer climate, I would probably advise against it. That’s because there is a 100% chance that you will set your house on fire when attempting a turkey deep fry. You folks in the frigid Midwest will enjoy the extra warmth, while the raging grease fire would just be an inconvenient distraction for people in Florida and California, really adding no benefit to the day.
Well, there you have it, America. You’re all set to cook the perfect turkey and have an enjoyable day with whomever can make it to your house this year.
Have a tasty Thanksgiving!
See you soon,
Copyright © 2020 Marc Schmatjen
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