Apron's Cooking School head chef Rich Norris and sous chef Scot Hill shared their expertise with Wishbone U. students during a three-hour class recently, and offer the following:
Trust your nose. When food smells done, it probably is.
Parchment paper on baking sheets makes for easy cleanup. Parchment and wax paper are not interchangeable.
Purchase an instant-read thermometer.
Start potatoes in cold water so they cook evenly.
Overcooked potatoes won't absorb as much liquid. Return drained, cooked potatoes to the hot pot and momentarily let the steam escape. Dry potatoes will better absorb all that buttery liquid.
Use coarse kosher salt. It is easy to overdo it with fine table salt. Salt as you cook so that the seasoning works its way into the food; otherwise, you may oversalt at the end.
Keep nuts in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent spoilage. Watch carefully when toasting nuts. As soon as you can smell the aroma, they are done.
Make sure your roasting pan will fit in your oven.
When buying a turkey, figure 1 to 1-1/2 pounds per person. That way you'll have enough for soup and turkey sandwiches.
Don't stuff the bird, which tends to lead to an overcooked bird.
If you're roasting the turkey in an aluminum pan, double up for sturdy's sake. Also, the turkey should sit off the bottom, on a rack. Don't have one? Make a rack of whole carrots and celery stalks.
Salt turkey before adding herbs. The salt draws out moisture and lets the herbs and other flavors penetrate.
There is no need to wash the turkey and, in fact, that might spread bacteria around your kitchen. However, you should pat it dry, inside and out, with paper towels before seasoning. This facilitates even browning on the outside and allows seasonings to permeate better from the inside. Make sure you remove packets of giblets.
Turkey is done when the internal temperature of the breast is 165 degrees and the legs and thighs are 180. Tent the breast with foil to keep it from overbrowning while the dark meat finishes cooking.
The turkey needs to rest at least 15 minutes after it comes out of the oven so that the juices can redistribute into the meat. If you carve it right away, the juices will run out, leaving the bird dry. A loosely-tented turkey will stay warm for nearly an hour.
Don't carve the turkey at the table unless you are supremely confident about your knife skills. Parade the burnished bird around the table and then whisk it back into the kitchen. Carving isn't always pretty.