Stuff it? Baste it? Pro tips on how to cook a turkey

Follow these easy tips and you'll cook like a pro

A turkey dinner (Courtesy: New Seasons)
A turkey dinner (Courtesy: New Seasons)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — So you’ve got 22 people coming over, some of whom you might know and another group you only kind of like, but you’re in charge of cooking the turkey.

Stressed? Don’t be. It’s not that hard.

KOIN 6 News spoke with Angela Bozo at the Raleigh Hills New Seasons in Southwest Portland. She said she’s cooked hundreds of turkeys, experimented with different brine recipes and roasting techniques, and is smoking her turkey this year. But she “feels good about both roasting and smoking.”

Angela Bozo of New Seasons in Raleigh Hills in Southwest Portland, November 22, 2017 (KOIN)
Angela Bozo of New Seasons in Raleigh Hills in Southwest Portland, November 22, 2017 (KOIN)

“I really do love this holiday,” she said. Company-wide, New Seasons sells about 28,000 turkeys, and this location “easily got 3000 to 5000 birds.”

Here are Angela Bozo of New Seasons tips to cook the turkey this year:

Frozen Turkey
If you haven’t started thawing your turkey yet, “you’re definitely going to want to use a quick thaw method. You’re definitely going to want to get that bird out of whatever plastic it’s in. You want to get it in your sink right now, start getting cold water on it and kind of rotate it through that cold water so you can thaw it as fast as possible.”

To stuff or not to stuff the turkey
“Don’t stuff your turkey. You do not want to add density to that bird. You’ve already got this giant carcass with a bunch of dense meat on it. Really, what you want to do is get it in and out of the oven as fast as possible. The longer it’s in the oven, the more it’s going to dry out. … Don’t put anything in that cavity other than maybe a couple aromatics (such as carrots, celery, onion or garlic) because you want the air to move around as much as possible.”

KOIN 6 Staff’s Thanksgiving recipes

A thermometer
“It’s worth the investment to get an internal probe thermometer. An internal probe thermometer will tell you the temperature of your turkey so you don’t have to open your oven repeatedly…Every time you open your oven you’re adding cooking time, and again you want to keep the cooking time as low as possible (so it doesn’t dry out.)”

An internal probe cooking thermometer at New Seasons in Raleigh Hills, November 22, 2017 (KOIN)
An internal probe cooking thermometer at New Seasons in Raleigh Hills, November 22, 2017 (KOIN)

Basting and crisping
“I understand that Grandma used to baste, totally, but let’s think about it. Skin is waterproof. Skins are also butter-baste proof. So let’s just leave that be. Let it roast. … Every time you open (the oven) you’re losing that wonderful warm air that’s rotating around that bird, both making your skin crisp and cooking your turkey.”

“Really start your oven hot, get the skin where you want it first and foremost. Start your oven even as high as 450 or 500 degrees for 20 or 25 mintues. Use your oven light (to check the skin crisping.) “Then decrease the heat of your oven to start cooking the inside. Crisping the sking in the beginning is a good call because, in the end, if your white meat is already cooked and ready to go, you don’t want to add that extra time. You don’t want to bop up the temp to (get the skin) crispy at the end.”

Use foil over it
“Your dark meat is going to take a little longer to cook than your white meat, so putting some foil over the white meat will allow the dark meat to cook, while the white meat cooks a little more slowly.”

Shoppers at New Seasons in Raleigh Hills in Southwest Portland, November 22, 2017 (KOIN)
Shoppers at New Seasons in Raleigh Hills in Southwest Portland, November 22, 2017 (KOIN)

“I would say the average size bird, about 18 pounds, is going to take about 3 to 3.5 hours in a good oven, again keeping it closed. … You want 165 degrees all the way around, so you can pull it at about 163 degrees. It will still cook that couple degrees on the counter because you definitely want to that that turkey rest at least 20 minutes. … It will let the fat settle and you won’t lose as much liquid if you were to cut into (the turkey) right after pulling it out of the oven. But, also, too, so you can reasonably handle (the turkey.)”

Seasoning
“I am a big proponent of getting some herbs and salt and pepper and some butter and rubbing that all underneath the skin before you pop it in (the oven.) It’s not burning or causing your skin to get too dark, but you’re also adding all of that flavor up underneath there, and then when you cut it you’ll see that layer of flavor.”

Then sit back, relax, pass the cranberries and gravy and enjoy your Thanksgiving.

A food worker at New Seasons in Raleigh Hills, November 22, 2017 (KOIN)
A food worker at New Seasons in Raleigh Hills, November 22, 2017 (KOIN)