Posted by: briellethefirst | August 25, 2010

How to Roast a Bird

If you don’t have a usual way to roast a bird, here’s how I do it: I’ll use a turkey, but you can use any bird you like, just adjust the amount of seasoning and other stuff…So, take 1 turkey, remove the giblets and neck (we’ll get to those in a minute) and rinse the turkey under the tap. You did clean the sink before you started, didn’t you? Anyway, put the turkey in a roasting pan and wash your hands. Of course YOU washed your hands, but we both watch the news and with the growing incidence of food poisoning that could and should be avoided with simple safe-food-handling practices we’ll just mention it for those who might forget.

Now a brief digression to address the giblets. What are giblets? They’re those things, usually in a bag, that you just pulled out of one end of your bird. Oh, you know THAT, but WHAT are THEY? Well, they’re the innards of the bird, not necessarily THIS bird, but a set of guts that this bird would have been using while s/he was walking around, the heart/lungs/liver/kidneys…stuff s/he doesn’t need anymore but lots of people think make great stuffing ingredients. if you want to add them to your stuffing…OK…but I give them to my pets as a treat. I also never feed my dogs/cats/critters raw meat. Put the giblets in a pan, add some water or wine to the bottom and roast with the bird till done. Shouldn’t take long, maybe 20 minutes or so. They’re small. Let cool & add to the dog’s dinner so they can celebrate whatever holiday too.

And another digression…the roaster…do you have one? Is it big enough for the bird you want to roast? When cooking turkey I prefer to roast birds that are 12 lbs or smaller. They cook faster and more evenly, stay juicier and are easier to handle. You don’t need a monster roaster, either, and the more reasonably-sized roasting pans fit in the dishwasher better. You may, however, need 2 roasters for holiday cooking for the family. Mine are both enamel. Love them. When shopping for one pick them up. How comfortable are the handles? Will they fit your hand while you have oven mits on? If it’s heavy to begin with it’ll be even heavier with a 10 lb bird in it. Look at your cabinet space and your dishwasher and then go shopping. Thrift stores, grocery stores, evil big-box stores and gourmet shops in malls are all options. Have fun.

So, now back to the fowl roasting. You can simply salt and pepper inside & out & roast at 350 deg. Fahrenheit for 20 min per pound, unstuffed except for an onion. How heavy was that bird again? OOPS! Go fish the packaging out of the trash, find the weight and wash your hands again. (Of COURSE you do, but for those who forget…) If you want more flavour take a small bowl and mix together 1/4 to 1/2 tsp each of your favourite herbs and spices. Garlic, basil, paprika, celery seed…whatever combination you want. Mix it then take 1/2 of it in one dry hand while holding the big end of the bird open with the other hand. Set your hand with the spices into the opening and blow it into the bird. It might take some practice but it should distribute fairly evenly. You can take a little bit more mix and do the same thing to the small end of the bird. Take what’s left and mix with whatever liquid you want to baste the bird with. Honey/wine is good, or fruit juice, beer, butter…experiment. If you like you can stud the onion with cloves or other woody spices like cinnamon or star anise if you’re doing an eastern flavour. Now add some liquid to the bottom of the pan. 1/4 to 1/2 inch is fine, more than a splash, less than a dousing. Wine or beer is good, or whatever you’re using to baste the bird with. If you’re going bare-basic-simple water is fine and once in a while we should all go with simple to remember the original, basic flavours of our ingredients.

Tip: If the bird starts to brown more than you like before it’s quite done, ‘tent’ it with a paper grocery bag or aluminum foil, or you can tent it for the 1st 1/2 of baking, experiment.

Once the bird is done let it rest for at least 10 or 20 minutes before carving. While you’re waiting I’m sure you can think of something to do…set the table, put the pie in the oven, clean up, make sure the kids wash their hands, dish out the rest of dinner…ready? Ok, so how to carve a turkey (or any bird)? Well, there are several explanations in books and I’m sure you can find one with a quick internet search. I don’t think there’s any graceful way to do it. You may want to cook 2 birds, carve 1, and have the 2nd for the ceremonial carving of the turkey breast at the table then trade out the pretty bird for the carved one for quick serving. In the kitchen you can use your hands to pull/cut the legs off, then cut slices from the breast then take off the wings and strip the rest of the meat.

Once you have the meat on a platter and the bones more or less bare it’s time to make broth. If you’ve never done this, see my post on How to Make Broth. Once you have the broth started you can sort the meat into slices for sandwiches and chunks for soups, stews, enchiladas and all sorts of other stuff. Divide into amounts appropriate for individual cooking sessions so you don’t have to worry about thawing out too much and wasting some or having to cook more than you intended. Have fun experimenting.


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