Properly cooking poultry isn't rocket science but planning and prepwork are key to ensure a moist, evenly cooked bird for your Thanksgiving feast.
Storing Fresh Poultry
Purchase your bird three to five days before the planned meal. If you've chosen fresh poultry, ask your butcher to take off the legs and neck if necessary, then keep it unwrapped in the fridge. When you're ready to roast the bird, remove it from the fridge, wash it, pat it dry and leave it for at least two hours to come to room temperature before cooking.
Storing Frozen Poultry
Thawing a frozen bird requires patience. The safest method is to thaw it in the refrigerator, allowing ample time for it to slowly defrost. On average, it takes approximately 3 days for a 20-pound turkey to fully defrost. Tip: For a crispier skin, unwrap the bird the day before roasting and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
Preparing a Goose
Place the bird on a wire tray over a roasting pan, remove any excess fat from inside the cavity of the goose and season it inside and out with salt and pepper. Alternatively, put a couple of fresh sprigs of thyme and rosemary and a whole bulb of garlic into the cavity, along with half a cup of water. Prick the fat gland under the wings of the goose and around the back by the "parson's nose." If the legs are still attached, rub them with a little butter or cooking oil and cover them with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. Preheat the oven and calculate the cooking time according to the weight of the bird.
Preparing a Turkey or Chicken
Place the bird in a roasting pan and rub the skin with salt and pepper, or mix a little softened butter, crushed garlic, lemon zest, chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and black pepper. Lift the skin away from the flesh, smear the butter under the skin and over the breast, and then re-cover the flesh with the skin. Preheat the oven and calculate the cooking time according to the weight of the bird.
Cooking the Bird
Cook the stuffing separately so hot air can circulate in the main cavity of the bird. This helps to reduce the cooking time and produces more succulent meat. It also prevents the breast meat from overcooking.
Carve Then Serve
The bird is cooked if the juices run clear when a sharp knife is inserted into the flesh. Cover it loosely with aluminum foil and clean dishcloths, and leave it in a warm place away from drafts for 30-60 minutes to allow the juices to soak back into the meat and make it more succulent. Before plating, carve with an electric or very sharp knife to ensure clean slices.