For a tasty, perfectly-done turkey dinner, follow these guidelines.
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1. When purchasing a turkey, look for one that is plump, plucked clean and free from strong odors. As with other poultry, you'll likely get better taste with a fresh, rather than a frozen, turkey. If it is also free-range or raised organically, it should taste better still.
2. If using a frozen turkey, allow ample time to defrost: at least three days in the original plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Otherwise, the breast will become dry and overcooked before the legs are done.
3. Allow one pound per person (cleaned weight), including leftovers.
4. To avoid contamination, never put stuffing into the bird until just before the turkey goes into the oven. .
5. Place the turkey breast-up on the rack in the roasting pan.
6. Drape the turkey with cheesecloth dipped in oil. Every 30 minutes, lift the cheesecloth and baste the turkey with the juices in the pan. This ensures a juicy, tender bird.
7. The turkey is done when the thickest part of the drumstick feels tender when pressed and moves easily in the socket, and when the lower part of the thigh exudes clean, yellow juices when pierced with a fork.
Joan Nathan is the author of An American Folklife Cookbook (Schocken Books).
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