Cooking Questions: Chicken And Turkey

Browse our collection of frequently asked cooking questions for advice on preparing chicken and turkey.

Spicy Rapid Roast Chicken

Photo by cookin’mama

How do I roast a whole chicken?
For best results, set the bird on a roasting rack over a roasting pan. The chicken will cook more evenly and won’t be sitting in its own drippings, which will give you crispier skin. For easier cleanup, line the pan with aluminum foil. See our article on roasting chicken for more info.

How do I cut a whole chicken into smaller parts?
This is a terrific, economical skill to learn! Whole chicken is cheaper than buying pieces, and the leftover parts of a deboned chicken are perfect for soup stocks. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can cut up a chicken in no time. To cut up a chicken, follow these simple step-by-step directions.

How can I prevent my chicken from being dry?
Dry and/or tough chicken is most often caused by overcooking. Recipes often give cooking times, but these are really guidelines.

A few things can affect cooking time. For example, thin pieces of meat will cook more quickly than thick. Heat settings can vary from stove to stove. And even the size and shape of the pan can affect the cooking time. The best way to avoid overcooking is to check your chicken regularly as it cooks.

How long can I keep raw or cooked chicken? What are the best storage methods?
Raw chicken should be stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator and used within 2 days. Freeze any chicken that won’t be used within 2 days.

Frozen chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to one year without sacrificing quality.

A whole cooked chicken can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days; cut-up cooked chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 days. Cooked chicken should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

How do I cook a turkey?
First remove the giblets. Next, rinse the bird inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. If you are stuffing the bird, stuff loosely, allowing about 1/2 to 3/4 cup per pound of bird. Brush the skin with melted butter or oil. Tuck the drumsticks under the folds of skin or tie together with string. Lastly, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should point towards the body, and should not touch the bone. Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven. The turkey is ready when the thermometer reads 180 degrees F, about 11-12 minutes per pound. See our article on roasting turkey for more info.

How big should my turkey be?
Count on 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of turkey (bone-in, whole turkey weight) for each guest, depending whether you want plenty of leftovers or just a few. (If you have lots of guests to feed, consider buying two medium-sized turkeys rather than one giant–the cooking time will be shorter.)

How do I thaw my turkey?
The best way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. Allow one day for every five pounds of turkey. A quicker way is to thaw the turkey in a cold water bath. This will take about 30 minutes per pound. The water should be running, or changed frequently to prevent freezing. You may also use a combination of these methods. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature.

Can I roast my turkey the day before Thanksgiving, and reheat it?
No. Partially roasting a turkey the day before to save on cooking time the next day creates the perfect environment for bacterial growth. That said, you can carve the fully cooked bird and layer the meat in a baking dish for re-heating. Seal the baking dish with foil to reduce moisture loss. Since breast meat has a greater tendency to dry out, place it on the bottom of the dish and cover it with gravy if you like, or perhaps a small amount of turkey stock.

What is the best way to store cooked turkey meat?
As mentioned above, layer the meat in a baking dish and seal it with foil to reduce moisture loss. Since breast meat has a greater tendency to dry out, place it on the bottom of the dish and cover it with gravy if you like, or perhaps a small amount of turkey stock. Cooked turkey will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

You can also freeze turkey. Sealed in an airtight plastic wrapping or freezer bag, turkey can be frozen for up to four months. Freezing turkey with gravy will help it retain moisture better.

Thaw frozen turkey overnight in the refrigerator, or use the defrost setting on your microwave. When thawing foods in the microwave, they should be cooked immediately afterwards. When re-heating turkey meat, be sure to heat it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (70 degrees C).

How do I deep fry a turkey?
Deep-frying a whole turkey is messy and presents some hazards. So it’s always done outdoors. There is some special equipment you need in order to take on this project, and we recommend that you don’t attempt this without the right tools. You will need a heavy-duty portable propane burner and a very large stockpot (26 to 40 quart capacity) or a custom-made turkey-frying pot to begin with.

How do I smoke a turkey?
Smoking a turkey is easy provided you have the right equipment. The right equipment, in this case, is a smoker. Smokers allow you to carefully regulate the temperature, which is vital when cooking a large beast over a long period of time. It’s possible to smoke a turkey using a charcoal grill, but only if you’re prepared to get comfortable next to the barbeque and watch it constantly for the better part of a day.