It is possible celebrating Thanksgiving in many different ways. People have various customs and prepare a variety of foods, but turkey is always a constant. Without turkey, this holiday would look entirely different. Have you ever wondered why do we can’t celebrate Thanksgiving without the turkey on the table? The fact is that no one can accurately say who has chosen this particular bird to be an ‘unofficial symbol’ of our beloved holiday.
If you ask historians, they will give you a few different theories. Every grandma will tell you that she has always celebrated this day with turkey on her table as well as her mother and grandmother and that her recipe for preparing the turkey is ‘the best in the whole world’. However, there are only a few people who will be able to answer the question – Why turkey but not some other bird that is in abundance in the United States. Let’s try to discover the truth and to find the best recipes because you deserve to have best-prepared turkey on the festive table for Thanksgiving.
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Turkey – the Classic Meal for Thanksgiving
According to early American settlers’ letters, the first Thanksgiving on American soil was celebrated in 1621. That year the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians celebrated the holiday together by sharing a festive meal.
Alongside turkey, they probably ate fish, beef, deer, duck, and chicken, but in a famous Edward Winslow’s letter, he mentioned turkey hunting before that particular meal. Some historians consider that that letter was the basis for the future connection between turkeys and this holiday.
There is another theory from the 16th century as well. It is claimed that the Queen of England was eating her dinner when received the news that the Spaniards had a plan to attack England, but that their fleet of ships sunk. To celebrate this excellent news, the Queen ordered another goose. Historians, who advocate this theory, claim that that goose was an inspiration for the early settlers. They just chose to roast wild turkey instead of a goose because it was a native bird of North America.
Benjamin Franklin even claimed that the turkey would be a more suitable symbol for the US than a bald eagle. Since the bald eagle became the US national emblem in 1782, the turkey became the central symbol of Thanksgiving.
Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. Their family started the lovely tradition of providing a presidential pardon for ‘the most fortunate turkey’. It is likely that this custom was crucial for the turkey to become the main dish on the menu for this holiday. After the Continental Congress established Thanksgiving as a holiday, the first official celebration was organized in 1877.
Why Turkey is the Best Choice for Thanksgiving
Nowadays, most American families have the turkey on their Thanksgiving table. It is a practical dish, and there are actually numerous reasons why this bird is an excellent choice for the holiday dinner.
1 – Turkey is easy to prepare – You don’t need to be a top-notch chef to prepare the turkey. Roasting a bird in the oven for only a few hours without watching over is enough that your family enjoys a delicious meal.
2 – There are so many various recipes for turkey – You can cook that bird on so many ways depending on your own tradition and preferences. The best part of this tradition is that every family should discover their own Thanksgiving turkey recipe. Sometimes, it is transmitted from one generation to another. It is believed that there are more than sixty recipes for preparing a happy Thanksgiving turkey. Basically, whichever method you choose as the best, it will be the right choice for you and your family.
3 – Turkey is a large bird – Its size makes turkey a good choice for dinner because only one bird is enough for the whole family. If your family is small, you can enjoy your turkey for a few days.
4 – Turkey is affordable – The turkey meat is usually cheaper than chicken and most families can afford it for a holiday. Given that Thanksgiving is a family day and that a lot of people gather around the table, the price of meat brought out on the table is not a negligible item in the household budget. That makes the pocket-friendly turkey the excellent choice. Plus, you can easily hunt turkey by yourself!
5 – Compared to other animals – Unlike cows and chickens, turkey doesn’t give milk and eggs, and the household doesn’t suffer loss because of one dinner. Unlike pork, turkey is not greasy. Plus, from the very beginning, it has been more affordable.
Anyway, unless you are a vegetarian, you are one of almost 90% of Americans who consume a delicious turkey every single Thanksgiving. Plus, you have at least two advantages over the first settlers who wanted to eat turkey:
1 – You can buy a turkey in the market.
2 – You don’t need to struggle with 60 pounds weighed turkey (the average weight of wild turkey at that time).
Is There the Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe?
Your grandma probably has ‘the best recipe’ for preparing the turkey, but maybe you like to go off the beaten paths. There are so many ways how to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving, and there is no reason to do it the way everyone else does.
Maybe it is the really best choice to find a recipe which will be the most favorite for you and your family. Here we give you several versions of how to prepare turkey, and you can choose the one that will become ‘just yours’ forever.
You can also try a new recipe every year and thus prepare a pleasant surprise for family members every single time. Just imagine that instead of having ‘always the same turkey’, this dish becomes an incredible surprise and always a unique meal for your dearest ones.
I will describe you in detail two genuinely amazing ways of preparing a turkey that can never get out-of-date. Both approaches are not difficult so that even inexperienced cooks shouldn’t have the problem to make these delicious festive meals.
Practical Tips on How to Cook a Turkey
Beyond the custom, I will discover you all my secrets at the very beginning! The best combination for a perfect turkey is – lots of butter under the skin, an exceptional, winning mixture of spices, and the foil! Let’s start!
1 – The weight of a turkey– How big turkey you will choose, depends on the number of your family members. It is considered that an adult needs approximately two pounds of meat, and for a child, you should provide about half a pound. Be prepared that you will probably have a surplus of meat that you can use for lunch the next day.
2 – Thawing– Firstly, you need to thaw a turkey. The best way is to place it in the refrigerator to slowly defrost. On average, it takes at least 24 hours for the turkey to be ready for cooking.
3 – Cooking time– How long it will take to prepare a turkey primarily depends on the weight of the bird. If you have a turkey weighing 10 pounds, as an example, you need to prepare it for 90 minutes plus an additional hour at a higher temperature. Per every added pound, it is necessary adding fifteen minutes at the cooking time.
The cooking temperature is always 325 degrees F. After the estimated time, raise the temperature at 400 degrees F during the last hour. You shouldn’t change it no matter how massive turkey is.
- 10-pound-heavy turkeyneeds to be cooked for 90 minutes at 325 degrees F (plus 60 minutes at 400 degrees F in the end).
- 12-pound-heavy turkeyneeds to be cooked for 120 minutes at 325 degrees F (plus 60 minutes at 400 degrees F in the end).
- 14-pound-heavy turkeyneeds to be cooked for 150 minutes at 325 degrees F (plus 60 minutes at 400 degrees F in the end).
- 16-pound-heavy turkeyneeds to be cooked for 180 minutes at 325 degrees F (plus 60 minutes at 400 degrees F in the end).
- 18-pound-heavy turkey needs to be cooked for 210 minutes at 325 degrees F (plus 60 minutes at 400 degrees F in the end).
That increase in temperature during the last hour is extremely important. It is the time when the turkey’s skin will get a beautiful golden color and become crispy. In the same time, the meat will stay soft and juicy. It will be helpful if you check the internal temperature of the meat by using a meat thermometer. To get the perfectly cooked turkey, both the legs and breast should reach 165 degrees F.
4 – The foil– Aluminum foil is a magical way to avoid dissipating the heat. Also, it will let the dark meat completely get roast while the turkey’s breasts slowly bake without drying out. The result is outstanding flavorful and juicy meat with yummy golden skin on the top.
The Best Recipe for Delicious Thanksgiving Turkey
This recipe is for a 10-pound turkey. If you like spicy meat, you can add little extra seasoning, but don’t expect that it will significantly change the flavor.
- Thawed 10-pound turkey
- Unsalted butter (in an amount of approximately six tablespoons)
- Three halves of the onion
- Four garlic cloves
Dry Rub made of:
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp mustard
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp sage (dried)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp dried thyme
1 – Choose the right turkey – Buy a turkey in the undamaged original packaging and pay attention to the expiration date. You definitely want a fresh and delicious bird for a holiday.
2 – Prepare turkey – After removing the bag, containing with the heart and gizzards from the cavity, and cutting off the neck, carefully dry the skin using a few paper towels. Then wipe the inside of the bird.
3 – Butter – Separate the skin over the turkey breast from the meat on both sides. If you have done it appropriately, you will easily slide your hand under the skin. Insert three tablespoons of butter under the skin on each side and spread them evenly over the entire surface of the breasts.
4 – Dry rub – Put together the paprika, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and mustard in a bowl. Mix all of the ingredients until the mixture becomes smooth. Cover the surface of the whole turkey with a blend of spices. Carefully rub the spices over the breasts, wings, and legs and press the mixture into the skin a bit. Sprinkle an extra rub inside the cavity of the bird along with peeled garlic cloves and onion halves.
5 – Pan – Put the bird into the roasting pan. Consider using a pan with a rack. It is a simple way to keep the turkey’s bottom from getting soggy.
6 – Foil – Use an adequately sized piece of foil to cover the whole breasts. Press it down to cover the entire body of the bird nicely. Cut out the excess of the foil sticking out of the pan.
7 – Prepare the oven – Preheat the oven to required 325 degrees F.
8 – Cook the turkey – Place pan with Thanksgiving turkey into the oven. Remember that the recommended cooking time depends on the weight of the bird. Check the list I have given above.
After cooking a 10-pound-heavy turkey for 90 minutes at 325 degrees F, increase the oven temperature. After carefully removing the foil, cook the bird for another hour to 400 degrees F. Check the internal temperature of the breast. It shouldn’t be higher than 165 degrees F. When the skin becomes crispy and desirable golden, remove the turkey from the oven.
9 – An extra tip – Always let the meat rest between 10 and 20 minutes before you start cutting it to desired pieces. In that way, your cooked turkey will be tender and juicy.
How to Brine Turkey for Thanksgiving
Have you ever tasted a brined turkey? If not, maybe this year is the perfect time to do that. This method of preparation is a fantastic way to get an ideal turkey that will delight every member of your family.
The process implies altering the molecular structure of the turkey’s meat by soaking it in a very salty solution for a while. The secret is in the infiltration of salt to the meat which will make your turkey juicy and delicious. No matter how complex this process sounds to you, believe me, it is not complicated at all.
If you have not enough time, you can find ready-made brining solutions in any better-equipped shop, but it would be better to make one on your own. Basically, you need only water and a bunch of salt, but seasoning a basic solution to taste with apple cider (or juice) and various spices will give you surprising results.
Pick out fresh turkey. Since frozen birds are almost always injected with a sodium solution, avoid brining a frozen turkey.
- Cold water (approximately 2 gallons, depending on the size of turkey)
- 3 cups apple juice (some chefs prefer apple cider)
- 5 minced cloves garlic
- Bay leaves (5 whole leaves)
- 4 tsp rosemary leaves (it is ideal to be fresh)
- 3 tsp peppercorns
- 1 ½ cup salt (depending on taste)
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 3 large oranges (only peel)
1 – Pot – Choose a pot large enough to stir brown sugar and salt until dissolved in water without the risk of making a mess in the kitchen.
2 – Oranges – Cut off the top and bottom of the oranges and slice off the peel to get medium-width stripes.
3 – Seasoning – Put orange peel into the pot along with rosemary and bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns.
4 – Apple cider/juice – Add apple cider or apple juice into the pot. Bring the mixture until it boils, turn off heat, and cover the pot until brine becomes entirely cool.
5 – Brining – Pour the cooled brine solution into a large pot, bowl or brining bag, and put fresh, not-frozen turkey in it. It takes the turkey, soaked in brining mixture, to stay in a fridge for 20 to 24 hours, depending on the size of the turkey.
6 – Before roasting – After removing the turkey from brine, immerse it in cold water for about 15 minutes. It is a practical way to remove excess salt from the surface of the turkey’s skin. Dry the bird and cook it according to the roasting method you like the most.
7 – Brine – Once used, brine is not for further use. Throw it away.
This amount of brine is enough for the turkey weighing up to 20 pounds. If you prefer preparing a bigger bird, you will need to add more water. For small turkey, you can halve the recipe.
Let me tell you the well-kept secret. Once you master these outstanding recipes, you will easily upgrade them and be able to experiment with new spices and combinations. Cooking the turkey is a big deal only when you do that for the first time. Every next attempt will be a new challenge that will provoke you to experiment over and over again.
In a few years, you will be able to effortlessly cook the deep-fried turkey (imagine to get turkey on your table within only two hours), cider-glazed turkey, and golden cider-roasted turkey with the enticing aroma of leeks and apples. After that, you can try a turkey roulade with fresh herbs, extraordinary smoked turkey or roast turkey with tangerines.
Do you know that there are almost no fruit, vegetables or spices that is impossible to combine with a roast turkey? You can add to your festive bird apricots, sweet potatoes, carrots, yogurt, orange marmalade, pan sauce, mayonnaise, beer or balsamic. Or merely make bacon-wrapped turkey which is traditionally reserved for top-notch connoisseurs.
And, you know, a list is not even close to the very end.
Thanksgiving Turkey Clipart
To make the Thanksgiving more fun and fabulous, select one or more top-happy and funny Thanksgiving turkey clip arts on the Net for free. Or just make them by yourself. Overcrowded with commercial lip arts, your children will be delighted to get the unique handicrafts.
Be original and put ‘handmade’ clip arts on your blog, website, or share some on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Make your holiday different by printing them and making cards for your family.
The possibilities are endless. The only important thing is that your clip arts should be fun and exciting regardless of whether it is an art image of cooked or live turkeys. Make turkeys in silly positions celebrating Thanksgiving!
Imagine the turkey with a knife and fork in her wings while it is eating its festive dinner. Plus, you can make dancing turkey, stand-up comedian turkey, tricky turkey, angry turkey, the cooked turkey that winks while lying on a plate, the turkey that shares dinner with the Pilgrims, and turkey surrounded by food, candles or autumn leaves.
Do you know that you can make or download clip art of turkey and print them on the plates? Imagine what a surprise it will be for all those present at dinner! The possibilities are truly unlimited for those who have the imagination and the goodwill to make this beautiful holiday different and more interesting every single year.
If you are not an art type, find one of the numerous ‘step by step’ tutorials on YouTube. Involve your children and make a miracle together for unforgettable, only yours Thanksgiving!
Indeed, you can choose to cook Thanksgiving turkey on your grandmother’s tested ‘perfect’ recipe over and over again every single year. However, if you know that there are more than sixty recipes to prepare happy Thanksgiving turkey, why wouldn’t you experiment a bit? Today, at the time of the Internet, you can easily find a bunch of recipes and options that seems most interesting to you. Discover new ways of cooking and make each ‘Turkey Day’ exclusive and unique to your family.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!