New traditions: Cooking my first Thanksgiving Turkey

November 28, 2009


I have never cooked THE turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

I have never even cooked a turkey.

To date – I have cooked ONE entire bird – it was a small chicken.

I was so proud of myself that I blogged about the entire experience.

So when November hit – I began researching.

I discovered Smockity Frocks instructions for soaking your turkey over night… PRINT.  I discovered The Finer Things in Life instructions about cooking your turkey the day before… PRINT.  I discovered The Fly Lady’s idea of a holiday folder where you write our your plan with recipes and keep it year to year so you can improve your holiday strategy…. PRINT.

SO on Tuesday night after our children were in bed, I sent my darling husband down to our storage room in the basement to dig under a mountain of stuff retrieve our cooler.  Then I sent my darling husband to the shoppette to buy 4 bags of ice. (I’m really lucky he loves me this much.)

My turkey had been defrosting in my fridge for 6 days.
(I read the label – aren’t you proud of me?)

While hubby was running errands, I started taking off all the wrappings…

Now I am not a squeamish girl – but THIS was DISGUSTING!
Lots of unexpected blood and fluid came burbling out…
I literally said “EEWW!!” and jumped back!
(Luckily no one was around to see me.)

So I laughed at myself and started looking over my “naked” turkey…
I noticed a separate bag of questionables inside the body cavity…
“hmmm… no idea what that is… ”

At this point my darling hubby arrived with the bags of ice…
“Hunny? do you know what this is?”
“Nope – just throw it out… Here’s your ice. Where do you want it?”
“Right there is fine… Open up the cooler, I’ll bring the turkey over…”
(I found out the next day that plastic bag was something important – whoops!)

Note to self — It is A LOT more difficult to maneuver a “naked” vs “wrapped” turkey.
It took me several tries to lift the turkey because I was laughing at myself.
Hubby just shook his head and picked up our fussy baby.

I set our lovely bird down in the cooler and started dumping ice on top and mixing up the water.  This picture is at the halfway point – be sure to tip your turkey so the cavity fills up.  (FYI – I used about 4 pitchers of water, 2 cups of salt, 1 cup brown sugar and 4 bags of ice).

Here is Daddy and Maggie checking my work…
“Not sure about this Mommy…”

8 hours later, on Wednesday morning, I drained the cooler.
It was very hard to dig the turkey out of all that ice.
I think next time we’ll just set the cooler in the bathtub.
(That way I can scoop out the ice and just let it melt there.)

Once again, I was laughing at myself trying to lift/maneuver this large “naked” bird.
After a nice bath in the sink, I placed it in the roasting pan along with some sliced apple and onion.

After about an hour at 500 degrees, it was starting to turn brown so I covered it loosely with foil.  It took a total of 3 hours for my 21 pound bird to reach 160 degrees.

It was absolutely gorgeous.
I took 17 pictures of it.

I let it sit for an hour to cool, and then started to carve… Oh it was so moist!
((Yes I snitched… I’m sorry… I just had to…))
I made up three platters of meat – one light, one dark, and one for the wings/drumsticks.
I then covered them with foil and put em in the fridge.

For Thanksgiving dinner, I put the platters on the top shelf in the oven and a cookie sheet filled with water on the bottom shelf to create steam.  It took about an hour to heat up at 375 degrees.

One of the single soldiers who joined us said “This is one of the best turkey’s I’ve ever tasted!”.  He has no idea how much those simple words of praise meant to me!

I don’t know why – but I really wasn’t sure if I could do this
(I honestly have two lasagnas in the freezer just in case!)
Here is a picture of our Thanksgiving dishes.

So now we have TWO new traditions in our family.

We will always soak our turkey over night – it makes it DELICIOUS!

We will always cook/prepare our turkey the day before – much LESS STRESS!

The only thing we had to do when our guests left our house was scrape things into tupper ware and do the dishes!  We had 8 adults and 7 little ones, so we used paper plates and kept a container of baby wipes on the table for sticky faces and fingers.

Thoughts for next year…
– Put the cooler in the tub – easier to drain and scoop out all the ice!
– Instead of water in the roasting pan, I’ll use a cookie sheet.  This way the drippings are in the pan, and there is still plenty of steam to cook the turkey.  I simmered the drippings + water for 3 hours trying to get it to thicken for gravy!  (I gave up and used the “just in case” jar!).


About Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva

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10 Responses to “New traditions: Cooking my first Thanksgiving Turkey”

  1. Smockity Frocks Says:

    HOORAY for you! So glad everything turned out. The turkey looks GREAT!

  2. Amy @ Finer Things Says:

    LOVED this post. :) Sounds like you did an awesome job, and your food spread looks yummy! I'm never able to get my gravy to thicken without the trusty cornstarch/water mixture. Then I'm good to go.

  3. Ingrid Says:

    Good for you! I knew you could do it!

  4. Hallee Says:

    Wonderful job! How awesome to receive such high praise! The spread is beautiful. I will have to try the recipe for the turkey.


  5. Sarah Says:

    That bird looks beautiful! I bought a turkey for later this month…I'm going to try the cooler thing. Very nice job!

  6. TidyMom Says:

    I'm going to have to check out those recipes! I've never heard of soaking a turkey like that!! You're bird looks BEAUTIFUL!! Sounds like a wonderful day!!


  7. cookies and cups Says:

    Awesome turkey, never heard of soaking it. Will have to try! I wonder if it woks for a roasted chicken?

  8. bridget {bake at 350} Says:

    That turkey DOES look perfect! We're talking magazine perfect! And, how cute is your little helper checking on the cooler!??

    I love that you had 2 lasagnas in the freezer just in case! That's hilarious!

  9. SnoWhite Says:

    what a delicious spread of food you have there!

    congrats on the turkey — I made my first one this year too. Ours turned out nicely, and I'm glad it did since I didn't have two lasagnas ready to go! way to plan ahead. :)

  10. Dorothy Says:

    Congratulations on cooking your first ever turkey, and a 21-pounder at that! It looks beautiful! I did my first one this year too, but it was only an 8-pound Lil' Butterball. And it wasn't as gorgeous as yours. You're one brave lady! :)