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chef 300KENTUCKY (11/27/13) – One of the biggest mistakes in preparing a holiday feast is in cooking a turkey until it's too dry — That is an observation of Marriott Executive Chef Luke Swagger. Swagger has shared several tips for cooking the perfect turkey.

“When roasting a turkey, make sure the breast is facing up. This allows the fat to melt into the bird and prevent it from drying out,” he said. “Marinades and brines are perfect for turkeys. They allow for additional flavor and retain moisture.”

Swagger said cooks should be conscious of “Carry Over Cooking” — when a turkey is removed from the oven, it is technically still cooking.

In fact, as the bird cools, it continues to cook. Allocate 20 minutes from the time the turkey is removed from the oven “to allow it to rest before carving”.

According to the chef, another advantage of allowing the turkey to rest is that moisture is retained in the meat as it cools and it keeps the meat from drying out.

“Invest in a meat thermometer; you can get one cheap and it more than pays for itself in the end.” said Swagger. “To temp a bird, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the bird, usually between the thigh and breast. A turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees (for poultry).”

Swagger expressed his concerns about “stuffing the bird”. While many people cook the turkey with its cavity filled with dressing (stuffing), “it can be very dangerous (cross contamination)”.

If you stuff the bird, make sure the stuffing reaches the full 165 degrees, said Swagger.

“If you are looking for a good base to a sauce, gravy or soup; save the bones and all the extra “goodies” that come with the bird,” he said. “ Roast them in the oven at 350 until caramelized (for a deep richer flavor), then place in a deep stock pot with celery, carrots, onions and fresh herbs. Add just enough water to cover all ingredients and allow to simmer (NOT BOIL) for three to five hours. Strain, portion and freeze. This makes a great base all year round!”

Swagger said that the stock can be frozen in ice cube trays and put in freezer bags or just poured into zip-lock bag in various portions.

The chef recommends using the turkey stock in many recipes instead of water.

Chef Swagger supervises a staff of 35 to 40 serving the Baptist Health Hospital campus in Madisonville, Ky.

Ron Sanders
SurfKY News
Photo by Ron Sanders

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