What if tomorrow was Thanksgiving Day, is your oven clean and ready? For giggles, let’s play like it is. Place the turkey in the sink with your roasting pan nearby so you don’t have to carry the turkey around the kitchen. Rinse the turkey well and remove the giblets and neck, usually located in the cavity. Be careful not to splash to much water around and wash everything with hot soapy water when you are finished to prevent cross-contamination.
Once the turkey is rinsed, dry thoroughly with paper towels, outside and inside the cavity and place on your roasting pan. Start with the turkey breast side down and use a sharp knife to score the skin and meat along the back of the turkey. Over the years, I have noticed the drippings will collect here and when I move the turkey to a cutting board to carve, it turns into a giant mess. Scoring the back will release the drippings which in turn provides more liquid to make gravy. After scoring the back, place the turkey on a rack in your roasting pan breast side up.
If you stuff your turkey, now is the time to do it. Try not to back the stuffing in to tight or might may not cook properly. Remember you can stuff the neck cavity as well, just secure the skin with some toothpicks to keep the stuffing from falling out. I have a great recipe for stuffing, so check back in for that later.
Here is my favorite tip, bacon. I have seen recipes where people will place bacon strips around the turkey; however, I have found you get better flavor a different way. Using your hand and starting from the cavity towards the neck, run your fingers between the turkey skin and the meat itself. Loosen the skin all the way to the neck and around the sides of the breast. Once that is done, place bacon strips over the meat and under the skin. This will allow the bacon to flavor the breast meat and help keep it moist during cooking. You get an added bonus by having extra drippings in the pan to use when you make gravy.
With the bacon in place, its time for the final preparations. Use a good vegetable oil and generously rub oil into the turkey skin. This will assist in browning and provide the crisp skin that can be a treat. Once oiled, season the skin with your favorite blend of spices. Place an oven-safe meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh tent the breast with aluminum foil and place in a 325-degree oven. The USDA website has great guidelines on how long your turkey will take to cook based on the size of your bird. When the turkey has about 45 minutes left to cook, remove the foil from the breast so the skin can continue to turn brown and crispy. Once your meat thermometer reads 150 to 155 degrees, remove the turkey from the oven, wrap the pan tightly with foil and let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise and the bird is safe to eat when it reached 165 degrees.