1.) I’m a pescatarian. I do, however, usually eat turkey every Thanksgiving. It’s kind of my cheat day since it’s a holiday. (Feel free to leave your strongly worded opinion about that if you like. Wink.) But I am NOT experienced with cooking meat. I’ve been a pescatarian since 2007, and I didn’t really get into cooking until maybe 2009? No overlap. Cooking meat scares me.
2.) Undercooked meat can make you sick. And the last thing I would ever want to do is invite a bunch of friends and family over for a food poisoning party. Cooking meat scares me. (Did I already mention this?)
3.) Turkey is supposed to be the show stopper. I had bought a giant platter to serve the turkey on (see above). What was I going to put on this platter if I burnt the turkey? Or dropped it? Or barfed on it while I was removing the…uh…insides. (Yeah, I used the word “barfed”, everyone. I’m 26.)It was also really important to me that I purchased an ethically raised turkey. Or (at the very least) the closest thing I could find. The reason I’m a pescatarian is because I do not like many of the practices used in the factory farming meat industry (that produces most of the meat sold in my country). I don’t think it’s good for the animals. I don’t think it’s good for the environment. And I don’t think it’s good for humans. (If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend this book.)
So I called around and found that since I was needing my turkey two weeks before Thanksgiving, I had only one option. And that option was 20 lbs. and cost right around $75. I wasn’t planning on needing a turkey quite that large. And although I think the price was worth it (can you imagine all the work that must go into raising and, well, getting a turkey to market?), it was easily the most expensive food item purchased for our feast. That added to my roasting anxiety because I knew if I messed up the turkey, I basically wasted $100 (thinking about everything else I had to purchase to prepare the turkey).I stressed myself out about this turkey for close to two weeks. I even had a dream about it. I was REALLY nervous, guys. When I get scared, I try to break things down into steps. First, buy the turkey. A 20lb frozen bird is a funny thing to carry out of a store. I let it thaw for a few days in the refrigerator. The night before, I removed the innards. I couldn’t tell if I got them all because it turned out not to be that hard. I always thought this step would be super gross. I googled, but sure enough it was just a few things you needed to remove. No biggie.
Next, I brined my turkey. (I basically followed this recipe exactly for the whole process.) When you brine, you have to soak the turkey in a broth solution overnight. Where in the world do you find a pot large enough for a 20lb turkey?! Am I supposed to use a bucket? Thank goodness I discovered brining bags.
The day of, I got my turkey in the oven with plenty of time to roast, given its size. The first 30 minutes my instructions recommended I roast the turkey at 500°F and then turn the heat down. Cooking at this high of temperature usually causes some smoke, no big surprise there. But I was cooking at my sister’s house and realized I didn’t know how to use her overhead fan. And I didn’t want to open all her windows because the heat was on. So I smoked up the kitchen while frantically texting Elsie about how to use her fan.
After the first 30 minutes though, things cooled down (ha!). I just watched as my turkey turned deep amber brown. (Is it too brown? Is it burning? I don’t know!) When the recommended roast time had passed, I carefully inserted my instant read thermometer into the turkey to check if it was done (and safe to eat). It was! Hooray! I pulled it out, and my gosh it was heavy. I apparently do not have arm muscles. I thought for sure I’d do something smooth like drop it on the way to the table. That’s really all I was thinking in the above photo (DON’T DROP IT. DON’T DROP IT. DON’T DROP IT.) I didn’t. I made gravy from the turkey drippings. Is there really no better word for it than “drippings”? Ugh. But it was tasty anyway. And I felt proud. I did something new. I did something that kind of scared me. And I didn’t mess it up!
So if you’re roasting your very first turkey this year, my heart goes out to you. Be brave! Don’t drop it. And above all, enjoy yourself. It’s a holiday.
And if you are making your 50th turkey this year and you’re laughing at my rookie ways…well, yeah. What can I say? 🙂
Happy Turkey Day Everyone! xo. Emma