A roast turkey is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving and because the meal is built around it, cooks often feel some pressure to get it cooked perfectly. The turkey, usually sold frozen, must be thawed for quite some time before it can be prepped – and for every two chefs out there there are 3 opinions on how the turkey should be cooked. There is one turkey that I know of that promises to make Thanksgiving easier by eliminating all of these variables: the Jennie-O Turkey Store Oven Ready Whole Turkey.
The turkey comes in an oven bag and is baked from frozen. All you really need to do is take the turkey, still in the bag, and place it in a roasting pan in a preheated oven. An 11-13 pound turkey takes about 3 1/2 hours to cook completely. There is an oven thermometer already in the turkey that “pops up” when the turkey is done so you know exactly when to take it out of the oven.
I was skeptical before I tried it. Frozen turkey? No work required? It honestly seemed like it was too simple, but the fact that I didn’t have to handle a huge raw turkey was extremely appealing, as was the idea that the turkey is a huge Thanksgiving time-saver.
The turkey turned out great. I followed the package directions exactly and the turkey was well-cooked – both white and dark meat – flavorful and very moist. The turkey is prepared with “up to 10 percent solution to enhance juiciness and tenderness” and comes pre-seasoned, with salt and spices, including onion powder, paprika and garlic powder, all of which I would normally put on a turkey made from scratch. The skin was well-browned and, while not as crispy as some turkey skin I’ve had before, was still tender and not soggy. The turkey had lots of flavorful drippings, which I used to make gravy once the turkey was done. In fact, it was even easy to get the drippings out of the oven bag by snipping off a corner and letting them drain into a measuring cup so I could skim off the fat.
All in all, this turkey is definitely worth a try. I loved the fact that I didn’t have to worry about whether or not the turkey was cooking properly, as well as that I didn’t need to handle the bird in advance, saving time for other Thanksgiving prep work. The meat was tender and tasty, and the homemade gravy turned out great. If you’re set on a heritage turkey or going for totally organic bird, you might have to wait until Jennie-O expands their line. Otherwise, this is a great option and one you (and a turkey-loving family) won’t be disappointed with.
Homemade Turkey Gravy
approx 3 cups turkey drippings, fat skimmed
1/4 cup all purpose flour
salt and pepper, to taste
In a stovetop-safe roasting pan, or a medium saucepan, whisk together turkey drippings and flour until smooth. Cook over medium heat until gravy comes to a simmer and thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve while warm, with turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes.
Makes about 3 cups gravy.