It depends on your priorities. “Basting is purely a skin treatment,” says Wolke. Its only purpose is to facilitate browning and crisping. He adds that rubbing the turkey generously with oil or butter before you put it in the oven will do the job almost as well. (But be sure to pat the bird completely dry first; if the skin is wet, the fat won’t adhere.)
Not only is frequent basting a hassle but it can also wreak havoc with your cooking time. “If you do it every 20 minutes or so,” Wolke says, “you’re losing a lot of heat from the oven by opening the door frequently.” If you or that loved one in your kitchen insists on basting, cookbook author and chef Sara Moulton advises that you prevent excess heat from escaping by taking the entire pan out of the oven and closing the door.
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4. How can I tell for sure if the turkey is done?
The drumsticks wiggle. The juices run clear. But you’re still not sure if the turkey is ready.
Take its temperature. “You need a thermometer for dependable accuracy,” says Moulton. Insert one oven-safe or instant-read thermometer in several places, being careful not to allow the tip to touch bone.
According to the USDA, turkey is cooked through when the internal temperature of a thigh reaches 180° F. (When gauging doneness, keep in mind that the meat continues to cook and subsequently rises a few degrees even after it comes out of the oven.)
5. What do I do if the turkey is no longer warm — but has yet to be served?
By the time you allow the bird its prescribed resting period, it’s no longer warm.
Workaround it. Before you slice turkey, it requires at least 20 minutes to rest and allow the juices to redistribute. The laws of physics stipulate that the meat will inevitably cool. Anderson points out that hot gravy and side dishes can go a long way toward solving the problem. Warming the serving dishes and plates helps, too. Run them under very hot water and dry them just before dinner.
Instead of cursing the resting time, consider it a blessing, since it allows you to turn your attention at the last minute to the side dishes.
6. What if I’ve run out of cooking room?
You have all those side dishes to cook and nowhere to cook them.
Plan ahead. “Obviously you can’t bake eight different things at eight different temperatures at the same time,” says Francine Maroukian, a former caterer and the author of Chef’s Secrets. You have to solve that problem when you’re creating the menu, not while you’re cooking it, she says. First, write up a list of all the things you’d like to make, then evaluate the number of burners and your oven space.
And don’t leave everything for the last minute; see what can be prepared in advance. “Everything or at least a lot can be done long before the kitchen starts to get stressful,” says Anderson.