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How To Cook The Perfect Turkey: Tips From A Chef

DETROIT (WWJ) – Rule #1: Forget about the popper.

That's the advice of Metro Detroit chef Sean Mohan, who talked with WWJ's Roberta Jasina about how to cook the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.

"Don't ever pay attention to those little poppers," said Mohan, Executive Sous Chef at The Inn at St. John's in Plymouth.

"If your popper didn't pop, it doesn't mean that the turkey's not done. That's where a lot of people kind of over-cook their birds — they're worried about that popper," he said.

Mohan recommends first searing the bird, at 500 degrees. Then, he says, use a meat thermometer, which you can find at most grocery stores.

"You want to cook that turkey at 350 (degrees) for an hour-and-a-half to two hours," Mohan said. "You take the meat thermometer and you go right in at the thickest part of the turkey breast, and you wait for that thermometer to say 155.

"When you're at 155 degrees, that's the perfect time to take it out, cover it with some foil really lightly, and let it sit for 15 minutes to a half-an-hour," he said. "That's something we call resting; when all the juices that got pushed to the inside from all that heat get a chance to kind of redistribute and make sure there aren't any dry parts to it."

Another important tip: Once the temperature on the oven is set, leave it alone.

"Sometimes people … they'll start fidgeting with the temperature of the oven; you've got trust your oven," Mohan said. "Some people get worried, they turn up the temperature of the oven again — that ends up drying it out. It can even burn the skin and give it a bitter flavor."

As for the prep, Mohan says the trick to making a juicy turkey is brining the bird.

"Brining is where you take a salt water solution, and you can add different flavors: a little bit of brown sugar, some orange or sage, peppercorns, things like that," he said.

For a large turkey, Mohan says you should use three gallons of water, two-and-a-quarter cups salt and two to three cups brown sugar.

For best results, soak the turkey overnight — in the refrigerator, if there's room.

"I know this sounds a little unorthodox, but if you've got a really cold garage, and a big bucket with a safe lid on it, you can set it out in the garage overnight," Mohan said. "As long as it stays in like a 38 to 40-degree range, you're safe."

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