Preparing perfect poultry

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— Don't stuff that bird with stuffing. Apparently, that's one of the biggest slip-ups when cooking Thanksgiving dinner, Steamboat Grand Hotel chefs Patrick Lowe and Dan Kane explained this week.

"You can get uncooked turkey juices soaking the stuffing," Kane said.

When the stuffing is in the cooking turkey, it prevents portions of the bird around the stuffing, as well as the stuffing itself, to heat up to the recommended 170 degrees. It can get as low as 130 degrees, which may not be enough to cook the meat.

All of those juices will soak the stuffing and could make people sick. Stuffing always should be cooked separate from the turkey, the chefs said.

Another common mistake is overcooking the turkey.

"People like to wait until its nice and golden brown," Kane said.

Often, that's just too long to wait. Check the turkey's temperature between the leg and the breast to be the most accurate. Again, you're shooting at 170 degrees.

Lowe, director of food and beverage at the Grand, explained that in general, the most room for error with Thanksgiving dinner is cooking the turkey. Ideally, everyone is trying to make a juicy and tasty turkey, and Lowe gave a few tips on how to make that happen, along with adding a few twists.

Lowe usually soaks the turkey overnight in a brine solution with ice.

"When I'm at home, I like to take my turkey and put it in an ice chest," he said.

Then he mixes the brine solution, which, for six to eight people, is a mixture of four cups of dark brown sugar, four cups of salt, one cup of molasses, three cinnamon sticks and a half a cup of cloves. Mix that with enough ice water to completely cover the top of the turkey and let it sit for around 12 to 16 hours.

The sugar and salt in the brine solution will penetrate the meat and actually break down muscle tissue, which will make a more juicy bird, Lowe said.

After soaking, take the turkey out of the brine and dry it off. Then mix a glaze composed of a pound of soft, whipped butter, half a cup of apple cider and half a cup of maple syrup.

Lowe suggested preparing the bird before cooking by putting the glaze underneath the skin.

"It's self-basting; the butter gets right in there," Lowe said.

Use the remainder of the glaze to put over the turkey while it is cooking. He said follow the package recommendation for the time and temperature, but it is also good to go by 20 to 30 minutes in the oven for each pound of the turkey.

The finished product is what he calls the herb-and-maple-roasted turkey.

Once it's cooked, it's time to think about another important element of the meal: gravy.

"The best gravy is from the pan," Kane said.

Lowe agreed. He suggests taking a cup of apple cider and a cup of white wine and putting it in the turkey pan, and then mix all the juices and scrapings with it. Transfer it to a sauce pot, bring it to a boil and add a cup of heavy cream and a little flour to thicken.

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