Cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is an important task. If you fall behind schedule on the big day, don't panic (we've all been there) — here are five smart ways to help your turkey cook faster, so you can get it on the table in time.
1. Don't stuff the bird.
Skip cooking the stuffing in the bird. Not only can it pose food safety issues if not cooked properly, but stuffing cooked inside the turkey slows down cooking considerably, as it blocks the flow of heat. If you're going for a faster cook time, it's best to cook the stuffing separately.
2. Don't truss the turkey.
We prefer to skip trussing our turkeys. You may have grown up in a house where the turkey was always trussed, but you can certainly skip this step. When the legs are tied too tightly to the side of the turkey, they take longer to cook, which also puts you at risk for overcooking the leaner breast meat.
3. Don't open the oven door too often.
There's something about cooking a big bird like a turkey that makes you want to keep opening the oven door to check on it. Sound familiar? Well, resist the urge. Every time you open the oven door, not only does heat escape, but the oven temperature also drops, and it takes more time than you might expect to return to the proper temperature. Think of it this way, the more you open the oven door, the more it lengthens the cooking time.
4. Spatchcock your turkey.
If you need to cook your turkey fast, consider spatchcocking it. This process involves removing the backbone from the turkey, which results in a wide butterflied bird where the breast is in the center with a leg on either side. Not only will this give you more control over cooking the white and dark meat, but it also makes for easier handling and carving — not to mention the fact that it seriously cuts down the cooking time.
Read More: How To Spatchcock a Turkey
5. Cook just the parts, rather than the whole bird.
Consider forgoing the whole bird in favor of cooking your favorite turkey parts instead. The breast or legs (or even both) require significantly less oven time than the whole turkey.