10 Common Turkey-Making Pitfalls

I roast at least 50 turkeys a year, and I've done it every way except on my head (and I'm not sure I won't do it that way someday). I know that there's more than one way to roast a turkey, but I have found each of these well-known methods to have serious drawbacks. My goal is to serve a golden brown, moist turkey with rich roasted flavor, not one that is pale, soggy or dry. I recommend my easy recipe for Perfect Roast Turkey in favor of any of these methods. If I've knocked your favorite way to cook a turkey, forgive me -- but please try my way before you throw any brickbats in my direction.

No-Way #1: Never roast your turkey overnight in a low oven (that means any temperature less than 325 degrees F). The overnight method is almost guaranteed to ensure that your family spends the holiday together -- in the emergency room.

No-Way #2: Don't bother to roast the turkey upside-down. It might help to keep the breast area moist (I'm not convinced), but I can guarantee you that it is a really pain to turn a hot, slippery turkey right-side up.

No-Way #3: In my humble opinion, deep-fried turkey is a waste of time -- you can't stuff the bird, and you can't make gravy because there's no pan drippings. There is a reliable, detailed recipe in Thanksgiving 101 that I stand by. Beware of the countless short recipes on the Web -- they leave out a lot of important tips.

No-Way #4: The cheesecloth method doesn't really accomplish much unless you do it carefully. I usually end up with the cheesecloth glued to the turkey skin. If you want to try this method, to avoid sticking, be sure to brush the turkey well with melted butter and soak the cheesecloth in melted butter, too. Let the ends of the cheesecloth drape into the bottom of the pan so they will soak the drippings up over the bird.

No-Way #5: The "put the turkey in a brown bag" method isn't recommended, because it is difficult to find large brown bags that haven't been recycled with harmful toxins that should not be heated in a oven.

No-Way #6: Foil-wrapped turkey is certainly easy, but the turkey tastes steamed, not roasted.

No-Way #7: I think those oven-roasting bags should be outlawed. I think they make pale, anemic turkeys that taste like canned turkey meat.

No-Way #8: Don't sprinkle the bird with paprika. It's supposed to enhance browning, but it's really unnecessary and could scorch and give the skin a burned flavor. If you roast the bird at 325 degrees F for the times recommended by most manufacturers, you will have a beautifully browned bird.

No-Way #9: Never stuff the bird the night before roasting. If you want to save time, cook the "fresh" ingredients (onions, celery, sausage) the night before and refrigerate them in resealable bags. Reheat the ingredients in a large skillet before making the stuffing.

Here's a "maybe" method: Brine-soaked turkey is getting a lot of press lately, and it's a good method. But only if you have enough refrigerator space to hold a big vat of brine and the turkey overnight.

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