DIGITAL ORIGINAL: Tips for cooking the Thanksgiving turkey

Digital First

RONKS, Pa. (WHTM) — With COVID-19 causing many to change Thanksgiving plans and cancel large family gatherings, there may be some first-time turkey cooks out there. Not to worry — Café 1832 executive chef Phillip Ponticelli offers advice on cooking a turkey your family will gobble up this Thanksgiving.

Ponticelli says a small or average-sized turkey that weighs 10-12 pounds should feed 6-8 people. Smaller groups may consider purchasing a turkey breast instead of a whole bird. And Ponticelli says a fresh turkey rather than a frozen one is preferable.

To prepare the turkey, first brine it overnight. Ponticelli’s brine recipe is included at the end of the article.

When cooking the turkey, Ponticelli says to use a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat. The turkey should cook until it reaches 155 degrees. Then, says Ponticelli, it should sit out for about 15 more minutes to finish cooking fully before being eaten.

Common mistakes to avoid, according to Ponticelli:

  1. Purchase all of your ingredients in advance. Make sure you have everything you need before Thanksgiving day.
  2. Don’t put the stuffing inside the turkey to cook. This can prevent the turkey or stuffing from cooking to the right temperature and can make it unsafe to eat. Instead, Ponticelli suggests adding herbs inside the turkey and cooking the turkey and stuffing separately.
  3. Carving the turkey on the bone can be challenging or even dangerous. Ponticelli recommends removing the breast meat and the meat from the legs and thighs and then slicing it to present and serve.

For more advanced Thanksgiving cooks, Ponticelli suggests getting creative with the stuffing but keeping the turkey simple.

Leftovers should be refrigerated within four hours of cooking, says Ponticelli. He says a turkey gobbler sandwich, which also includes leftover cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy, is a great way to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner a second time.

Before serving as executive chef at the recently opened Café 1832, Ponticelli worked as a chef at Walt Disney World in Florida. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.

Chef Ponticelli’s turkey brine recipe

10-12 pound turkey
2 gallons of water
1 cup of sea salt or kosher salt
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs of fresh sage
2 fresh bay leaves
1 cup diced onion
1 cup of diced celery
2 tablespoons of sugar

Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat and chill below 40 degrees. Place turkey in cold brine and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, remove from brine and pat dry. Rub with butter and season with salt and pepper.

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