Can I rely on my supermarket bird’s preinserted thermometer, or should I use my own?
The technology behind this device is quite simple. A harmless compound with a known melting temperature is liquefied in the bottom of the timer device. A spring is compressed into the molten material as it cools and hardens. The timer is then inserted into the thickest part of the breast. When the material at the bottom of the timer melts again during cooking, the spring is free to expand, and the plastic stem pops up. Most of these timers are calibrated to “pop” at 178 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature chosen to make sure that the legs, which take more time to cook than the breast, will be completely cooked through. Unfortunately, this also guarantees that the breast meat will be thoroughly overcooked. Since we recommend that you remove the bird from the oven when the breast temperature reaches 165 degrees, the popper in your bird will never get hot enough to pop, so don’t rely on them for an accurate reading. Our recommendation? Keep your turkey meat moist and buy your own inexpensive thermometer.
How do I calibrate an instant-read thermometer?
Put a mixture of ice and cold tap water in a glass or bowl; allow this mixture to sit for several minutes to let the temperature stabilize. Put the probe in the slush, being careful not to touch the sides or bottom of the glass or bowl. On a digital thermometer, press the “calibrate” button to 32 degrees; on a dial-face thermometer, turn the dial to 32 degrees (the method differs from model to model; you may need pliers to turn a small knob on the back).
Is pinkish turkey safe to eat, even if it's fully cooked?
First off, always rely on an instant-read thermometer to ascertain doneness when roasting poultry. In the case of turkey, look for 165 degrees in the thickest portion of the breast and 170 to 175 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. And just because a slice of turkey has a pinkish tint doesn't necessarily mean it’s underdone. In general, the red or pink color in meat is due to the red protein pigment called myoglobin in the muscle cells that store oxygen. Because the areas that tend to get the most exercise-the legs and thighs-require more oxygen, they contain more myoglobin (and are therefore darker in color) than the breasts. When oxygen is attached to myoglobin in the cells, it is bright red. As turkey (or chicken) roasts in the oven, the oxygen attached to the myoglobin is released, and the meat becomes lighter and browner in color. However, if there are trace amounts of other gases formed in a hot oven or grill, they may react to the myoglobin to produce a pink color, even if the turkey is fully cooked. As long as you've let your thermometer be your guide, the meat is perfectly safe to eat.
Do I need to truss my turkey?
To prevent the legs from splaying open, which could make them cook unevenly, we tuck them into the pocket of skin at the tail end. Not all turkeys have such a pocket. If yours doesn’t, tie the ankles together with kitchen twine. There’s no need to fuss with trussing.
Does the turkey really need to rest before I carve it?
Yes. Thirty minutes or so gives it time to reabsorb the juices; otherwise they’ll dribble out when you slice, and the meat will be dry.
Is basting the turkey really necessary?
Despite what you’ve been told, basting does nothing to moisten dry breast meat. The liquid simply runs off the turkey, at the same time turning the skin chewy and leathery. Basting also requires that you incessantly open and close the oven, which means you won’t be sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner anytime soon.
What are these things that come in my bird’s cavity? And what are they for?
The turkey's cavities contain the neck, heart, gizzard (part of the bird's stomach), and liver. Although it might look scary, conquer your fears—the heart, neck, and gizzard are flavor powerhouses that can greatly enhance gravy, like our Giblet Pan Gravy. We brown, then sweat and discard them to extract meaty flavor. The liver, however, has a potent, unpleasant flavor that can ruin a good gravy: Do not use it.