Restaurants and professional chefs use a steam oven to roast turkey with moist meat and crispy skin.
Here’s how to turn your oven into an impromptu steam oven to cook a turkey to perfection.
Over the years I have roasted turkey more times than I can count. Literally. With all the holidays we’ve celebrated in 30 years of marriage, I have cooked turkey breast for just the two of us, and have roasted birds almost as big as me for 40+ family members.
A few years ago I discovered Chef Chiarello’s turkey tips and tried them out for our Christmas dinner. It was a smash hit! I have never had so many compliments as I did that day. My sister-in-law Wendy even asked for the recipe so she could use the same technique for the family reunion in the summer.
Even if you know how to roast turkey, try this method and see the difference for yourself. I think you’ll be amazed at how flavorful the meat is and how wonderful the gravy tastes too.
Here’s a video tutorial by Chef Michael Chiarello with written instructions following.
How Much Turkey Do I Need?
The rule of thumb is a pound of turkey per person.
How to Cook Turkey
- Preheat your oven at 375 degrees.
- Remove the plastic and the neck and giblets from the body and neck cavities of a thawed turkey.
- Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and then pat dry with paper towel.
- Put several celery stalks and whole carrots in the bottom of your roasting pan. If you have a rack, place it on top. If not, just set the turkey directly on top of the vegetables.
- Start with the turkey upside down, with the breast facing down. Rub the bird down with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Turn it over and repeat on the breast and legs.
- Don’t truss the turkey’s legs or wings. It cooks thoroughly when the heat can reach all parts evenly.
- Fill the cavity with fresh herbs (grocery stores sell them for a reasonable price now.) Rosemary and thyme are the herbs recommended by Chef Chiarello. Add some lemon slices to the herbs.
- In the video he pours 4 cups of chicken broth into his roasting pan and then puts the roaster on the stove to bring it to a simmer. I suppose this way the vegetables are also affected, but I didn’t want to be transferring a heavy turkey pan, bird and steaming hot stock from one place to another. Instead, I set the roasting pan on the oven rack, simmered the broth in a pot and then poured it into the pan. Makes sense, don’t you think?
- Roast uncovered.
How Long Do I Cook the Turkey
When the oven temperature is set at 375 degrees, you should cook it for 15 to 18 minutes per pound. The meat at the thigh should be an internal temperature of 165 degrees, and the juice should run clear and not be pink. (Chef Chiarello recommends a Digital Instant Read Thermometer.)
Remove the turkey from the pan and let it stand for 15 minutes before carving. This is a great time to make the gravy!
Which government agency is open on Thanksgiving Day? The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline has been standing by to help with your Turkey safety questions for the past 25 years at 1-888-MPhotline.
Now you can also “Ask Karen” on the Web where you can type in questions online and receive an immediate reply from USDA’s virtual representative 24 hours a day. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time, users can chat with a food safety expert.
Here are their Turkey Tips in advance so you won’t have to call them on Thanksgiving
“Thanksgiving dinner can be a challenging meal to prepare because it is so time-consuming and complex,” said Diane Van, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline Manager. “When you factor in thawing the turkey, cooking the turkey, preparing side dishes and desserts – and making sure guests are accounted for – it is easy to forget that food safety is the most important ingredient to making the meal an enjoyable one.”
1: Keep Everything Clean
- Keep hands and surfaces clean.
- Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Run cutting boards and utensils through the dishwasher or wash them in hot soapy water after each use.
- Keep countertops clean by washing with hot soapy water after preparing food.
2: Don’t Cross Contaminate
- When you prepare Thanksgiving dinner, keep the raw turkey away from vegetables and side dishes.
- Consider using one cutting board for fresh produce and bread and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water after each use; then rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.
3: Cook the Turkey and Stuffing to a Safe Temperature
- Regardless of the method of cooking, you can’t tell if the bird is done by the color of the cooked poultry. You must use a thermometer to make sure every part of the turkey and the center of the stuffing is an internal temperature of 165 °F, or higher if desired.
4: Store Leftovers Safely
- Discard any turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions, and refrigerate them in covered, shallow containers for quicker cooling.
- Be sure to consume refrigerated turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy within 3 to 4 days or freeze the leftovers for later use.
5: Keep Egg-Rich Desserts Chilled
- Foods made with eggs and milk such as pumpkin pie must first be safely baked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F. Then, they must be refrigerated after baking.
- Eggs and milk have high protein and moisture content; when foods baked with these products are left at room temperature, conditions are ripe for bacteria to multiply.
Here’s a video that tells you everything you need to know to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving: storing, thawing your turkey, how to stuff a turkey and cooking tips.
May we all have a safe and yummy Thanksgiving season!