The mission: A turkey that is well-seasoned, juicy, and cooked properly for Christmas Day – tomorrow – is entirely doable, according to Simply Better Gourmet Institute’s executive chef Charles Missick, even at this ninth hour.
His suggestion: Break the turkey down.
Deboning your turkey means it will cook faster, which means less time in the oven for it to dry out, and you should have no worries about one part being overcooked while another is underdone.
“Cooking a deboned turkey will take an hour-and-a-half max,” said the chef. “If you were to roast a whole unstuffed turkey, it could take anywhere from three-and-a-half hours to four hours, based on the temperature that you start cooking. And it’s always better to start hot at around 400 degrees for at least an hour to an hour-and-a-half, to brown the turkey, then reduce the oven temperature down to 300 degrees for another hour-a-half.”
He also makes the case for deboning, saying you are able to get more portions from a turkey that’s been broken down and cooked rather than one that is roasted whole.
“You get more portions from a deboned and cooked turkey, and you also get larger portions when you cut it. If you have a 20-to-22-pound turkey, you can serve 25 to 30 people solid,” said the chef. “When you roast a turkey whole, the meat sticks to the bone.”
Roasting a deboned turkey also takes up less oven space, leaving room for more items to go into the oven simultaneously.
Stuffed and rolled roasted turkey makes for a stunning presentation. It is also a cinch to carve.
“It is such a beautiful presentation,” said Missick. “It’s nice and round and the stuffing in the center ups the wow factor and you can rest assured it will be succulent.”
On the eve of Christmas, if your turkey has yet to be defrosted, Missick said you can still make a delicious, juicy, moist bird. His suggestion is to get your turkey soaking as quickly as possible, and preferably overnight in salted water, which will allow for some of the salt to season the bird. By Christmas morning, he said you should be ready to go, after a quick marinade in Spanish thyme or any herb grown in their yard, oil, garlic, white onion, fresh pepper, and just a little additional salt.
This Christmas, rather than “pulling out your hairs” wondering how your bird will turn out, Missick suggests you try your hand at deboning a turkey. He said it’s a surprisingly easy process (about 15 minutes) with no tools needed other than a sharp knife and a large cutting bone.
To debone your turkey, remove from marinading liquid and pat dry.
Place turkey breast side up on a cutting board with the wings pointed towards you. Find the center bone of the turkey and place a sharp deboning knife close to the bone and slit close to the bone through the skin; run the knife down the chest bone and remove as much meat as possible, until you separate the breast from the carcass. Do the same to the second breast.
Then turn turkey over onto chest and twist the legs until the thigh bones snap from the rib bone. Use the knife to cut around the oyster (the tender part of the thigh bone), and run it down along the backbone removing the thigh from the chest carcass. Run the boning knife again down the inside bone of the thigh, removing the bone from the thigh meat. Then use the boning knife to remove all tough tendons you see.
Once the turkey has been deboned, marinade and roll the thigh bone, Cut the breast from the tenderloin, open the tenderloin, stuff the middle with your customized stuffing of choice, close the breast locking the stuffing in, rub marinade on top, and then roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes then turn down oven temperature to 300 for 30 to 45 minutes more.
Once it’s been roasted, allow turkey to rest for at least five minutes to allow juices to relax, and then slice. He guarantees the result will be succulent.
In choosing a turkey, Missick said people should not allow themselves to be swayed by marketing when trying to decide on a bird to purchase. He said they can purchase an inexpensive bird and make it taste like a higher priced offering. The trick to it he said is an overnight marinade.
And when cooking your Christmas meal – don’t rush.
“It’s not a rush job,” said Missick. “Organize properly, gather ingredients, and ensure you have everything on your shopping list, so you don’t leave anything out, and you will have a beautiful Christmas meal.