OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A lot goes into preparing a Thanksgiving meal. For many families, it starts with the turkey. 41 Action News anchor Richard Sharp spoke to Whole Foods store team manager Roy Mahan at the 91st and Metcalf location for ideas to improve Thanksgiving dinner.
He learned about a series of ideas for how to best prepare the turkey -- and what to buy. Different families may prefer more white or dark meat. Options include buying more turkey breasts, grabbing more thighs from the meat counter, or preordering precooked options.
The size of the gathering may determine what size turkey you buy. Whole Foods says instead of buying a giant bird, you may consider a small or medium turkey and add an heirloom or heritage turkey. They’re smaller but can have a more robust turkey flavor, like wild turkey.
Once it’s time to prepare the bird, you have options. You can cook the stuffing in the turkey or in a separate dish. If you cook it separately, the turkey can cook faster and the stuffing can get crispy edges. Whole Foods warns that stuffing the turkey can increase the risk of food-borne illness. It recommends ½ to ¾ cups of stuffing per pound of turkey.
Another idea is to buy a brine kit. They include instructions, ingredients, herb turkey rub, and a brining bag. Brining the turkey can keep it moist and lock in flavor. To make the brine, you mix water, salt, brown sugar, whole black peppercorns, thyme, allspice berries and bay leaves. Leave the turkey in the solution for 12-18 hours. Before roasting, you remove the turkey from the solution. Drain it and rinse it inside and out. Dry it and place it in the roasting pan. Then rub the turkey with softened butter and herbs. Pour a little stock or white wine in the bottom of the pan. Baste frequently with the pan drippings during roasting.
Whole Foods recommends the following brine ratio for 2 gallons of water: 2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup brown sugar, 6-8 whole black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 4-5 whole allspice berries, and 2 bay leaves. Increase the mixture in steps until you have enough liquid to submerge the turkey.
Once your turkey is brined and/or stuffed, you have to decide how you’ll season it. Fresh herbs can add flavor. Loosen the skin over the breast and thigh and stuff chopped herbs under the skin. One option includes using sage, garlic, and salt and pepper. Brush the top of the skin with melted butter and sprinkle the rest of the mixture over the skin. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan that is fitted with a rack.
Another idea is to inject flavor directly into the meat with a poultry injector. You can create your own mixture. Whole Foods also offers a blend of vegetable broth, garlic, onion, thyme, sage, and salt and pepper.
Mahan prepared a Diestel turkey. Diestel recommends cooking at 325 degrees. It suggests checking the internal temperature frequently to make sure you don’t overcook the turkey. You can place foil over the turkey during the last half hour to prevent the turkey from becoming too brown.
Diestel suggests the following times for cooking a stuffed turkey. The turkey will cook about half an hour more quickly if it isn’t stuffed.