Chef Dad's Thanksgiving tips, gravy recipe

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Chef Dad (Source: KTVK) Chef Dad (Source: KTVK)

Chef Dad is offering these tips and a recipe to make your Thanksgiving festive and delectable.

How Long Will it Take to Thaw My Turkey?

A frozen turkey left in its plastic wrapper will need 24 hours for every 4 pounds of weight if thawed slowly in your fridge, which is the best way to do it.  If you plan on brining it, make sure you plan on it being thawed by the DAY BEFORE you cook the bird.  So, a 16 lb. bird that will be brined needs to start thawing in the fridge the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  A 20 pounder would go in the fridge the Friday before, etc.
Brine my Turkey?
You'll get a much moister, better tasting turkey if you do this the day before Thanksgiving.  Make sure you have a very clean or brand new 3-5 gallon bucket and space in the fridge to keep it.  You'll have to remove a few shelves in the fridge so it can sit in there overnight  or be able to cover the top of the bird in the bucket with enough ice to last 10-12 hours.  Do not let the bird reach 40 degrees or higher!  Dissolve 1 cup of Kosher salt with 1 cup of white sugar in 1 ½ gallons of good quality water.  Rinse off your thawed turkey and remove the gizzards/heart package.  Drop the bird in that solution.  Add additional water if necessary to make sure the entire bird is submerged. Brine time is at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours depending on the size of the bird.  Use the formula of 1 hour per pound as your guide.  Make sure you rinse off the turkey before baking. 
My Turkey is Still Frozen  What Can I Do?

Don't try to cook the bird on a grill, microwave or deep frying.  It won't work and deep frying will cause a fire.  Follow these steps and be prepared to cook twice as long as a thawed bird;
1)    Preheat the oven to 325.
2)    Use a turkey baking rack inside a large baking pan filled with 4 cups of water and some chopped celery, onion and carrot.
3)    Use a pair of kitchen shears to remove the plastic wrapping.
4)    Put the turkey in the rack then into the oven for one hour.  
5)    After one hour, remove the turkey from the oven then rub the entire outside with olive oil.  Sprinkle salt, pepper and poultry seasoning all over as well.  Put back in the oven for 2 more hours.
6)    Remove the turkey and pull out the plastic bag(s) from the inside.  If they won't come out, give the turkey another ½ hour in the oven then remove them.
7)    You've now cooked the turkey 3 hours.  A 12 pounder should take about 4 ½-5 hours, but no matter what, we are looking for an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
8)    Because of the extended cooking time, you may need to put a foil tent over the bird for the last hour.

How to Keep the Turkey Moist

The reason why a turkey comes out dry is because it was overcooked or poked too often with a thermometer.  Three things you can do to prevent this or fix it are; 1) Take the turkey out of the oven when the deepest part of the breast meat reaches 162-165 degrees. 2) Wrap the turkey in foil, turn it breast side down to rest for 20 minutes before carving.  This allows the juices to settle into the breast meat.  3) Use a thermometer that stays in place for the entire cooking process.  Make sure it's an oven proof thermometer or remote probe that stays in place.  When the turkey is done, DO NOT remove the probe until the turkey has rested for 25-30 min. If all else fails, have a large pot filled with about 4 cups of chicken stock to dip the meat into just before serving.  Keep the stock warm, but not boiling.

What Temperature Should I Cook the Turkey & How Long?

1)    325 until the meat reaches 162-165 degrees.  Remove from the oven then wrap it completely in foil for 20-30 minutes before carving.
12 lbs. Unstuffed @ 3 hours 45 min.  stuffed @ 4 hours
14 lbs. Same
16 lbs. 4 hours 15 min.  stuffed 4 ½ hours
18 lbs. 4 ½ hours  stuffed 4:45
20 lbs. Same
22 lbs. 5 hours  stuffed 5:15

To Stuff or Not to Stuff My Turkey?

Putting a bread stuffing inside the birds cavity forces you to cook the bird a little longer so that stuffing can reach a safe temperature to consume, which is 165 degrees.  If the stuffing is 165, the meat will probably be 170 or higher.  That's when the turkey meat starts drying out.  I recommend making your stuffing in a casserole dish that you can cover so it retains its moisture during the cooking process.  350 degrees for 30 minutes should do it.  If you only have one oven, simply remove the turkey from the oven and follow my instructions for resting the turkey.  Increase the oven temp from 325 to 350.  Rearrange your shelves in the oven so you can cook your stuffing, buns, casseroles, etc. while the bird rests.  The only thing I like to put inside the turkey's cavity is what is known as "aromatics".  These are veggies & herbs that add flavor to your turkey by cooking inside the bird.  I like to use a mixture of chopped celery, onion, carrot, fresh thyme & sage leaves.  Just a few cups total.  We don't want to over stuff the bird causing the same problem we had with the bread stuffing.

Our Oven Can't Fit the Turkey & All the Side Dishes!

Cooked turkeys are meant to sit, rest for 30 minutes before carving.  This is great, because it gives us time to cook our other dishes.  So, once your bird is done, wrap it in foil as mentioned earlier then raise your oven temp to 350-375, depending on what you need to cook.  Whether it's a green bean casserole, cornbread, sweet potato casserole, buns or whatever.  Put one shelf a few notches from the bottom and the second shelf two or three notches above that one.  Make sure your prepared dishes are ready to go by the time the turkey is being removed from the oven.  You'll have plenty of time because the bird will rest for 30 minutes and it'll take another 5-10 minutes to carve the meat.  Always feel free to let your guests see the bird prior to carving it so those great photo opps are taken.  But after that, go ahead and carve the meat before taking it to the table, unless Uncle Joe insists upon showing off his knife skills.

Do You Need An Easy & Delicious Gravy Recipe?

Chef Dad's Turkey Gravy

4 Tbsp. (¼ Cup) + 1 Tbsp. Salted Butter (divided)
¼ Cup Wondra® Flour (Wondra is in your flour/baking isle at the grocery store)
3 Cups Chicken Stock
½ tsp. Kosher Salt
¼ tsp. Black Pepper
½ tsp. Kitchen Bouquet® (optional) Found in the grocer's gravy section.

1)    Have all your ingredients pre-measured and ready to go.
2)    Use a medium sized saucepan and melt ¼ cup of your butter over medium heat.  After butter is completely melted and bubbling, add the Wondra flour and reduce heat to medium low then whisk frequently for 5-6 minutes.  If you are doubling up this recipe, whisk for 8-9 minutes.
3)    When your mixture looks light brown, raise temperature to medium and immediately start pouring in the chicken stock.  Pour stock with one hand while whisking with the other.  While continuing to whisk, let it come to a simmer.  Just a simmer, not a boil. This step is important to be patient.  The gravy will not thicken until it simmers.
4)    Now that the gravy has come to a simmer, lower heat down to medium low again then add the salt and pepper.  Whisk it in for a minute to let the seasonings incorporate then give it a taste test.  You can make adjustments for more spices if you like.  But remember; add just a little at a time.  If you prefer brown gravy vs. a yellow one, add your Kitchen Bouquet now.
5)    The final step is to add your last tablespoon of butter for a little richer flavor and a shiny gleam.  If the dinner is not ready to serve yet, simply remove from the heat and cover the pan.

Cook's Note:  If you're adding mushrooms or giblets, dice and sauté them in a little butter, salt & pepper before adding to your gravy.

This recipe should make enough gravy for at least 8 people.

Copyright 2015 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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