How to Cook your Thanksgiving Turkey

No Thanksgiving meal would be complete without the roast turkey, that mouth-watering bird that makes the holiday worthwhile. Naturally, it's the one dish that needs to be done right, especially when you have relatives and very close friends to feed.

Regardless of what size or quality your turkey is when you buy it, you can still cook it to perfection if you take the right precautions. The trick is to find the right balance between crispy skin, breast meat that stays moist, and a mild flavor that everyone can enjoy.

1. Temperature: After you've let your bird thaw out, you'll want to put it in the oven and cook it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit to get that extra crispy skin. The time it takes to roast the turkey should run from about 3 to 6 hours. It might help if you get a meat thermometer, so that you can routinely check to make sure it's cooked through. You'll also want to check if the breast stays moist once it's close to being done.

2. Mixtures: You can accentuate the flavor of your turkey by rubbing in some butter with salt and herbs like rosemary, thyme, or oregano. However, you don't want to put in too much; the turkey already has plenty of fat and too much will cause a buildup of unwanted grease.

3. Stuffing: It isn't always necessary to put your stuffing inside the turkey when it cooks, although you can still get some great flavor that way. If you do put in the stuffing, make sure that it's been cooked to a temperature of around 165 degrees Fahrenheit (which you can check with the meat thermometer).

4. Soaking: Once the turkey is done, take it out of the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes. This will lock the moisture into the meat. These juices will be essential later on. For example, after cutting out pieces of turkey breast, you can let the meat soak in the juices for a few minutes so that they stay moist when they're served. The juice that collects at the bottom of the pan can also be used to make gravy. Just add a cup of white wine and a quarter-cup of cornstarch, mix it all together, and then bring it to a boil.

Image by Dru Bloomfield on Flickr