Dr. Leah Riddick Cunningham

What about that Turkey?

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, what about that Turkey?

So now that Thanksgiving is behind us, I need to get something off my chest…what is the deal with all those cooking RULES for roasting the perfect turkey? Most of them I never heard of.  I’m going to share some of the ones I found and I want to know if you heard of them. 

First, before I begin sharing my experience, here’s my station break. I hope you all had a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving and incorporated the CDC guidelines to stay safe as much as possible if you went around family and friends. Now back to that turkey!

So, what’s with the rules about the turkey? Allow me to first frame this for you and we’ll proceed from there.

Thanksgiving Dinner Last Year 2019

This Thanksgiving was my 2nd Thanksgiving dinner as a new bride!  “YAY ME” Last year, as a new bride and establishing my husband and mine own tradition, I really pulled out all the stops. My first huge impressive family holiday meal. As coming from the single life where Thanksgiving consisted of eating out with the girls, traveling home and eating with family, or eating at friend’s homes who clearly had the Thanksgiving dinner thing down to a science, or just having my really good friends just deliver meals-to- go to the house. All I had to do was find the marathon movies of Julia Roberts and settle in.  But, fast forward to the married life.

Becoming the Family Chef

Now I was the family chef in charge of Thanksgiving dinner, no problem I got this!

So last year, I had a 3-course meal, beginning with hors d’oeuvres served with sparkling bottled water, followed by the main course with non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider and iced tea, followed by desert with coffee. Yes, every course had its own beverage. The main course had a minimum of 7 side dishes with fine dining presentation, and the Turkey was a blue-ribbon winner all by itself!  Sorry, I believe in being my own cheerleader. The table was set festively and intimately for two and it was a huge success, I pulled it off! My husband loved it, he took pictures of the table setting and sent them through the airways to friends & families with a hashtag … “she’s a keeper Mom.” Everything was great, I had nailed it!

But honestly, let’s just review last year.  For a new bride who was trying to impress, this was easily a 48-hour event. But the only prep time I allotted was only 24 hours. Who knew, you would need more than a day to get ready! I had to cook and serve this meal all within those same 24 hours, of which I needed most of for the prep, thus a 48-hour day crammed into 24.  Whew! Yeah, I may have pulled it off, but it was not without the behind the scene trials and errors of many hidden steps that no one talks about.  And I won’t either!

Thanksgiving This Year 2020

Fast forward to this year, I was determined to do things smarter, not harder, but still impressive. I couldn’t lose my place, I only had one year under my belt. However, I was going to scale it down a bit, actually, I was going to scale it down a lot starting with a less ‘a la carte’ menu items, exchanged for a more skillfully prepared ‘du jour’ menu. I had a plan.

So, this year I started earlier and smarter. First, I created a menu. Yeah, I know some wondering minds want to know, ‘she didn’t have a menu last time’, I’ll answer that for you, ‘no’.  Let’s move on. 

Second, I shopped earlier with a list. Skip the wondering mind question on this one, you already know the answer.   I have to admit this decreased my anxiety significantly, especially in the days of COVID-19, I’m not trying to be in large gatherings for any excessive length of time. You know why!

Thirdly, I had a plan to research as many recipes, and YouTube cooking channels for Thanksgiving tips to create a “kiss” (keep it smart & simple) Thanksgiving meal with the juiciest Turkey ever. After all, when its all said and done, it really is all about the Turkey isn’t it? So, I cut down on some of the extras that I had last year and went straight in with an all intents and purposes, to present a Turkey that would be so succulent, you almost wouldn’t want to eat it.  Of course, that would be ridiculous, that’s exactly what we were going to do. But, let’s get there.

Wait…what are these Turkey Rules About?

This is where things get crazy. I found way more rules in preparing the Turkey for cooking than I needed. But, it’s like once you become aware of something, how do you honestly, pretend you didn’t know? Now, it’s too late, I did know and I had to decide which rules were going to be ignored and which ones would I follow. Great, just when life was supposed to be simpler Turkey rules show up.


Rule #1—Don’t Wash the Turkey

So, let me ask this, please be honest… who has heard of this rule—that you aren’t supposed to wash the Turkey? What, are you sure? Don’t wash the Turkey just clean out the insides of the ‘extras’ (I did find those hidden gems last year), season it and cook it.  Wait, I couldn’t have read that right, but I did. The author said, the temperature of the oven, will kill any bacteria of the Turkey and make it safe for consumption. “Get out of here!” I clearly was unaware of this step last year. But I honestly have to say, I had to find confirmations on this with several other re-known sites to swallow this rule.  I learned that the opposing argument to washing it, is due to the possibility of spreading and splashing these turkey germs amongst your sink and kitchen and other areas unseen by the naked eye. Well, that may have good cause, but I decided to ignore this rule, I’m washing mine. Did you guys know about this, what did you do? https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/holiday-turkey.html

Rule #2—Brining??

Anyway, there was more I discovered. The next rule, Brining. What is with the brine? “To brine or not to brine, that is the question” Actually, there are two parts to this rule; wet brine or dry brine. Are you guys doing this one? Where did this come from? Wow, I clearly was single way too long. But, once I became aware, I could see its benefits, so I decided to go with the information to dry brine. It could be done less than 4 hrs. before cooking no rinsing and guaranteed to add flavor. Ok, we’ll adopt this rule.


Rule #3—Excuse Me Are You Guys Trussing? Or Trusting?

But wait there are more rules.  Trussing! Ok, ladies, let me talk directly to you right now. Did you know about this one? What in the world is trussing? And why is it necessary? Well, I discovered, that it is when you tie the turkey legs together. Really! Where did that come from? And why can’t we just say, its when you tie the legs together! All this formality, and I haven’t even performed the real seasoning yet. This has got to be all the preliminaries there are. At least I was hoping that it was, but it wasn’t. By the way, trussing was a no-go! Don’t judge me.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hn5Fes01nc

Rule #4—Injectable Marinade Sauce!


How to ensure the turkey was as tender and juicy as possible. The injectable butter full of creole seasoning! A marinade sauce with its own injectable syringe.  You just buy it, use it and toss it. It was going to ensure that from the thickest to the thinnest part of the turkey all of it was going to be as juicy and tender and flavorful as possible. Ok, now we’re talking.  A rule that clearly makes sense and is a sure step saver. I’m all in on this one!

Final Steps

All right, I believe we have arrived at the final steps, I think we discovered all the rules and we are headed towards the finish line. So, let’s put that bird in the oven set that temperature and the timer to the appropriate time and move on. Only a few side dishes to conquer.  Dinner will be served in just a mere “few” hours.

The K.IS.S. Rule

Yes, the “kiss” rule has been accomplished. Keep it smart & simple. This was my most primary rule that I feel should precede and supersede any of the other rules. All the others are just a matter of personal preference as to which to adopt and apply.

Ah yes, the girl has pulled it off again. I’m on way to another victory lap of one more successful Thanksgiving dinner.  Gaining another entry on the family social media platforms with the hashtag “this girl is on fire” she did it again!

So, as I set my timer on my phone to remind me in an hour to baste the turkey, to keep it juicy…an ad popped up and said, ‘how to tuck the wing tips under the turkey when roasting’. What, another rule! Tucking the wings, you have got to be kidding me. Where do these things come from me?  Well, I’m going to tell you, ‘the ship has already sailed on this one’.  The turkey is in the oven and as far as I’m concerned all is right with the world. I’m willing to roll the dice on that one.

Ok guys, I gotta run… Christmas is almost here, and I have a feeling there are going to be way more rules that I am unaware of.  I already feel the anxiety mounting. YIKES!  I got to go take a nap. I’ll meet you back here as we get closer to Christmas!

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