Since we develop recipes six months in advance, we’re cooking birds in the test kitchen in the spring—well in advance of Thanksgiving. In this episode, Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster kick things off with a discussion about developing recipes for Thanksgiving turkey. Julia reveals we go through about 50 birds during each recipe development process, and Bridget quips, “With 26 recipes under our belt, that means well over 1300 turkeys have flown through this test kitchen.” Later, Dan Souza teaches Julia the tricks to Easier Roast Turkey and Gravy. Bridget and Julia discuss the merits (and demerits) of some Thanksgiving shortcuts, Becky Hays teaches Julia the tricks of Foolproof Boiled Corn, and our gadget expert Lisa McManus reviews oven thermometers.
"Outsmarting Thanksgiving"Test cook Dan Souza shows host Julia Collin Davison how to make the ultimate Roast Turkey. Next, our gadget expert Lisa McManus uncovers the best oven thermometers. Finally, test cook Becky Hays uncovers the secrets to Foolproof Boiled Corn.
Five Takeaways from the Episode
1. Turkeys Are a Terrible Shape for Roasting: Cooking turkey presents a real challenge. They’re lumpy; all the meat that dries out quickest is on top; all the meat that takes longest to cook is on the bottom. We found that preheating our roasting pan atop a baking stone helped jumpstart the cooking of the dark meat. We also found that covering the breast with a foil shield for the first part of cooking helped ensure it didn’t dry out.
2. A Good Oven Thermometer Is a Kitchen Must: We've found that home ovens can be as innacurate as 50 degrees. Home ovens have internal temperature gauges, but they only give readings for the zone where it's installed—usually in the back or the side of the oven box. For accurate temperature readings, you need to measure the heat in the middle of the oven. That's why having a reliable oven thermometer is so important. Our favorite by CDN aced our accuracy tests. It sports a wide, sturdy base and clear temperature markings with large numbers and boldly visible dashes at 50- and 25-degree increments. [Buy Now on Amazon]
3. Be Wary of Thanksgiving Shortcuts: Some are fine—we’ve found some great pre-made dinner rolls, and some acceptable options for canned pumpkin, for example—but others can ruin your entire meal: stay far, far away from gravy in a jar, everyone. And as for frozen vegetables: frozen peas are good, while frozen green beans are bad.
4. Do Not Throw the Neck and Giblets in the Trash Can: You’ll want to save these to make your gravy. Simmered with the drippings, some aromatics, and a little white wine, these giblets will contribute to an absolutely killer gravy.
5. The Key to Good Boiled Corn Is Turning Off the Heat: Once the pot of water has reached a rolling boil, turn the heat off and add the ears of corn. The key to perfectly cooked corn isn’t time, but rather temperature. In uncooked corn, the starches inside the kernels are raw and taste chalky. As the corn’s temperature reaches 150 degrees, those starches begin to gelatinize, taking on a more silky texture. If corn is cooked beyond 170 degrees, the pectin, which gives the kernels structure, begins to break down, making the corn mushy. For perfectly cooked corn, the sweet spot is 150 to 170 degrees.
Quote of the Week: “I agree with not flipping the bird as much as you possibly can.” —Julia Collin Davison in reply to Dan Souza, who’d been discussing the many different ways we’ve cooked turkeys in the test kitchen
Can't wait for next week's episode? Get your fill with our past episode recaps:
- Season 17, Episode 8 Recap: How to Make the Best Ground Beef Chili
- Season 17, Episode 7 Recap: How to Make the Ultimate Sticky Buns
- Season 17, Episode 6 Recap: How to Make the Best Shrimp Scampi
- Season 17, Episode 5 Recap: How to Make the Best Cheese and Tomato Lasagna
- Season 17, Episode 4 Recap: Home-Corned Beef and Cabbage—and Shots of Sherry (Vinegar)
- Season 17, Episode 3 Recap: Crispy Chicken Breasts and Creamy Baked Potatoes
- Season 17, Episode 2 Recap: "Two Stews for Yous"
- Season 17, Episode 1 Recap: Cast Iron is Back!
What was your favorite part of this episode of America’s Test Kitchen? Let us know in the comments!