24 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Roasting a Turkey

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Overcooking the bird

The ideal temperature for cooked turkey meat is about 165 degrees F in the breast and 170 degrees F in the thigh. Estimate the cooking time for the bird using a chart, but then, about 30 minutes before you think it will be done, start checking it with the thermometer about every ten minutes.

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Not letting the turkey rest after roasting

Get an early start with your roasting, because once the turkey comes out of the oven, you should let it stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour before carving. This gives the meat a chance to reabsorb its juices, so it will be moister. Don’t cover it with foil if you want the skin to stay crisp.

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Wasting the pan drippings

When some cooks lift the turkey out of its roasting pan, they put the pan straight into the sink to soak for easier cleaning. Big mistake. The pan drippings, including any browned bits sticking to the bottom, are the makings of a great gravy. The turkey juices, fat, and browned bits all contribute flavor to the gravy. Look online for gravy-making directions, but the process is easy.

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Not sharpening your carving knife

This is an essential step for carving any kind of poultry or meat. You can’t do a good job with a dull knife. If you’re adept at the task, sharpen the blade yourself (even just stropping it on a sharpening steel will help). If you’re not, most cookware stores and many hardware stores will sharpen knives for you — but you may have to wait a few days for the results, so start early. (Forget electric carving knives, by the way. They’re loud, hard to clean, and liable to leave the meat in stringy pieces.)

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Carving the bird at the table

It’s a pretty picture: the perfectly cooked turkey, glistening golden brown, brought to the table on a festive platter, then deftly dissected in front of a ravenous audience. Unless you’re a real pro at turkey-carving, though, the process can be a little messy, so it’s best done out of sight. Present the turkey to your guests just before you’re ready to carve to show off its beauty, then take it back into the kitchen, work your magic with your sharp knife (there are numerous online tutorials to help), and reemerge with a platter full of gorgeous, ready-to-eat meat.