Last year, I posted elsewhere on how to cook a whole turkey (and the same information works, on a smaller scale for whole chicken). So here it is for you, Darlings!
Roasting a turkey can be danged intimidating, considering the size of the thing you’re putting in the oven. Me, I learned how to make turkey-roasting, and chicken-roasting, work really well when I was dead broke. A whole bird costs way less than the already-prepped parts, and can provide better meals and nutrition on a tight, tight budget.
But roasting a whole turkey is much easier than cooking shows and sitcoms make it out to be. Here’s my foolproof — yes, foolproof! — way to make your chicken or turkey come out tasty and not-at-all-dry. I’m going to include basic steps, too, because not everyone is accustomed to cooking whole birds.
The bird must be defrosted. Google the instructions if you’re not sure how to make this happen safely.
Find out the proper temperature and cooking time for the size of bird you’re cooking. Google can be your friend. I tend to use the chart in my grandmother’s Better Homes cookbook.
Remove the innards that are included with the whole bird. Usually these are in a bag stuffed inside the turkey/chicken. If you want to know what to do with them other than “Throw out those gross looking things!” let me know and I’ll do another post. 🙂
Quarter onions and cut celery lengths to fit inside the bird. How much? Well, enough to stuff the inside. But wait! Before you put the onion and celery inside the bird, sprinkle them with sage, marjoram, and garlic. I like lots of all three, so I suggest using a lot. It’s up to you.
Once the celery and onions are coated, stuff them in the bird. I put about three tablespoons of butter — rather, three one-tablespoon hunks of butter — in there, too. After, my mother likes to use little metal pins to close up the open cavity. Me, I just stuff in more celery and don’t worry about it.
The stuffed bird goes breast-up on a roasting rack, and the rack goes in a deep-sided roasting pan. The rack keeps the bird off the bottom of the pan so it cooks more evenly; the pan catches all the drippings because OMG GRAVY MADE FROM DRIPPINGS IS MARVELOUS.
But wait! There’s more!
Melt a ton of butter. Okay, maybe not a ton. Maybe half a cup or more will do. You can always melt more later. You don’t want it to be burning hot. Just enough to be mixable and malleable.
Put a bunch of sage and marjoram and garlic in the melted butter.* No, I can’t be much more specific, but I can tell you I’ve NEVER used too much sage or marjoram. Garlic is up to you. 🙂
Rub and pour that herb-and-butter stuff all over the bird. All. Over. Topside and underside and between the wings and everywhere. If the bird is cold, the butter will start to solidify on the skin, and that’s just fine. Use every last bit. Don’t skimp.
If you have some herb-and-butter left over, you did it wrong. Keep rubbing and pouring.
Sprinkle salt all over the bird. Pepper, too, if you want. I never do.
Wash your hands. Really, they’re probably pretty gross right now.
Use a bunch of foil to cover the bird. Tent it so it touches the bird as little as possible.
Put the foil-tented bird in the oven at the temperature your earlier Google/research found, and set the time for ONE HOUR LESS than the recommended cooking time.
When that one-hour-less time comes up, pull out the bird and remove the foil. If needed, use a baster to pour the drippings over the top of the turkey. (If you’re not sure if it’s needed, just do it. To my knowledge, no turkey has ever been ruined from too much basting.)
Use some of the foil to wrap the bones of the legs and the tips of the wings. Think of it as adding foil socks and mittens that keep those parts from burning.
Put the bird back in the oven. If your bird has one of those little pop-out temperature indicator things, wait for it to pop out. If it doesn’t, use your thermometer to find out when the thigh is at about 180 degrees.
(Look: I know I’m supposed to be very, very concerned with that temperature. I’ve actually never tested it. I’ve also never died or been sickened by poultry. I do , however, feel obligated to provide “official” numbers. YMMV.)
If the bird looks about as brown as you ever want it to be, but none of your temperature measurements indicate it’s sufficiently cooked, just put the foil back on!
When your chosen method of temperature measurement says, “You’re good!” set the bird aside to cool for about half an hour before carving.
I can’t give you excellent carving advice. I just cut the thing apart.
No matter how many people you’re serving, you’ll have leftovers—even if it’s just the body carcass. If you want to know what to do next, let me know and I’ll do a “So You Have A Poultry Carcass” post.
*You can use tarragon instead of sage and marjoram. It’s a unique, somewhat sweeter, taste. Or you can sprinkle smoked paprika on everything along with the salt. It’s adds a bit of a barbeque flavor.