Okay, I’m gonna level with you. I’m not quite so domestic as I may appear. In fact–for years–I was sort of a pro at ready-made and semi-homemade foods… And tackling a turkey? Umm, no. THAT was a notion that terrified and intimidated me. Not an option. For years. I mean, you’re dealing with a girl who didn’t even know how to make a proper American grilled cheese sandwich when she married.
So there were a few sad and sallow years in there, years when I longed and dreamed of my mother’s Thanksgiving dinners but was not in town to enjoy them, and I was left to my own paltry devices..
Then somewhere along the way, I had a breakthrough. I decided to tackle Thanksgiving. And–wouldn’t you know it–I found out that cooking a great, moist, delicious turkey is actually one of the easiest things to accomplish! Who knew?! Now I love to make a whole turkey two or three times a year! [Or more…]
So, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the task, you’ve arrived at the right place. I’ll hold your hand, and we’ll walk through together, m’kay?
Umm, then we’ll gorge ourselves on turkey and gravy deliciousness for days to come.
OKAY! LET’S DO THIS!
The number one, most important thing you need (besides a thawed turkey, of course) is a Reynolds Turkey Size Oven Bag. I get no compensation for declaring this: They.Are.Fantastic.
Also grab 1 tbsp flour, an onion, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp marjoram, 1/4 tsp paprika. 2 tsp rosemary, and extra virgin olive oil. Optionally, you can also add a bag of baby carrots and a couple of potatoes.
The oven bags come in two-packs. You just need one bag and one zip-tie closure for your turkey (keep the other bag and closure for next time!). [The oven bags even come with a suggested cook times chart for your turkey (according to weight). Simple!]
I don’t have a fancy turkey pan, so I just use the biggest pan I have or my largest casserole dish. I add 1 tbsp flour to the oven bag and shake it around (to prevent the bag bursting during cooking). And I lay my bag across my pan ready for my turkey to jump right in. Go ahead and remove the center oven rack and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
I clean the turkey in my sink to contain the mess. So make sure the sink is either lined (I set turkey on the wrapping I remove) or thoroughly cleaned before you start. Grab your turkey and open it out of the bag (I usually cut a snip in the edge and then tear the plastic wrapping down the middle).
Now for the grody part: remove the neck and giblets and gravy packet and whatever other stuff they’ve crammed into this poor bird’s orifices. Check both ends. Wash the turkey with cool running water (inside and out) until the water runs clear. [Ew. But worth it.]
Then finagle your clean bird into the oven bag (flex those muscles!). [It doesn’t matter which way it’s facing, as long as it’s breast side up.]
Next, slather the turkey with olive oil, and–after combining all your spices together–sprinkle them over the top of the turkey (including breast, thighs, and wings).
Hold the bag open with one hand and sprinkle with the other.
Peel and chop up the onion and sprinkle it in all around the edges and in the cavern of the bird. And optionally, peel and chop up a couple of potatoes and add a bag of carrots, too, all around the outside edges and corners of the pan… I mean, heck, you might as well just go ahead and cook a couple of side dishes right along with your turkey while you’re at it, right?!
Then seal the bag according to the oven bags packaging directions (basically loosely fasten the zip-tie). Then tuck in the overhang into the pan and cut a few small slits in the top of the bag for ventilation.
Put the pan into the preheated oven. For a 12-16 lb. unstuffed whole turkey, cook for 2 to 2-1/2 hours. For a 16-20lb turkey, 2-1/2 to 3 hours. And for a 20-24lb turkey, cook for 3 to 3-1/2 hours.
Then walk away. Your work is done! Woot!
A few hours later when you pull it out of the oven, it should look something like this.
You can tear the plastic bag (careful of steam burns) and admire your handiwork, but wait ten or fifteen minutes or so to let it rest before you start to carve.
Oh my gracious, and when you do cut into it, it will be all lovely and moist and delicious. Seriously, I wish you had smell-o-vision and taste-o-vision right now.
Scoop out the potatoes and carrots into two bowls. The potatoes can be left as they are or they can be mashed. Yummo.
I make instant box cornbread stuffing (so sue me) and add about a 1/2 cup (or more) of the turkey drippings to make it irresistible. And I add a cup or two of the drippings to the gravy packet that came with the bird (even if your turkey didn’t come with gravy, you can whip up turkey gravy quickly using a dry packet from the soup mixes section of your grocery, or you can even buy turkey gravy in a glass jar premade. [And yes, I know I forgot green beans or something green… but alas, what’s a girl to do? So add some green beans and rolls and you’re set!]
Wheeeee! Now you can be a super-pro-circuit turkey cooker!
So, anyone out there hosting Thanksgiving this year? Or maybe just tackling a turkey for the first time? You can dooo eeeet!
Oh, and as long as you’re being all brilliant and domestic and culinary, why not whip up a delicious homemade dessert, too?