You've been so preoccupied with table settings and Googling vegan recipes for your one vegan cousin that somehow time slipped your mind and Thanksgiving dinner starts in a few hours and... you procrastinated on your turkey! You misjudged how long it would take you to run that turkey trot or mash those potatoes and suddenly you realized you missed the window of optimal cooking time. Don't panic.
Take a deep breath, it will all be okay. Hopefully your turkey has been defrosting and maybe even brining in your refrigerator to help speed up the cooking, but no matter what kind of turkey conundrum you're in right now, you've got this. Just make sure you have enough appetizers and cocktail ingredients on hand to extend your guests' happy hour, just in case...
1. Speed thaw your turkey
Turkey still in the freezer? Don't go cold turkey on the frozen bird, but get ready for some speed thawing. Matt Jennings of Providence's Farmstead & La Laiterie told Esquire that the best way to do this is by turning your oven to its highest setting and "blast[ing] the frozen turkey for 10 to 15 minutes in the oven to jumpstart the thawing process." Then, you'll want to submerge your turkey in a pot or other vessel filled with cool water, changing the water every 30 minutes. It takes 20-30 minutes per pound to defrost a turkey this way, but using warm water can lead to contamination, so keep the water below 40 degrees. Once thawed, it's time to cook that newly defrosted bird.
2. Spatchcock your turkey
Bon Appetit's Thanksgiving 2014 issue was all about the spatchcocked turkey, and the trend continues to be one of the easiest, tastiest ways to cook a Thanksgiving bird. Because the backbone is removed and the turkey is semi-butchered, this flat-cooking turkey not only has ultimate skin crispiness, but cooks faster due to its more uniform shape. Sam Sifton's Fastest Roast Turkey recipe takes about two hours and is a crowd-pleaser. You'll save your turkey for last minute for many Thanksgivings to come.
3. Cook your turkey in pieces
If your butchering skills aren't up to spatchcocking, just break down your whole turkey and cook it in pieces. Slice off the drumsticks, wings and breasts (to be cooked whole) and season or baste them as you planned. Turkey cooked in pieces — which takes less than two hours — can be more delicious anyway because it's less likely to get dried out!
4. Don't stuff your turkey
If you're insistent on cooking a whole turkey, don't stuff it! You can bake the stuffing separately. According to The Kitchn, stuffing inside the cavity of a turkey "blocks the flow of heat" and therefore slows down the entire roasting process.
Leave that oven door closed! If you're checking on your bird every three minutes by opening the oven, you're allowing heat to escape and therefore lowering the oven temperature, slowing down the cooking process. Cut it out. Trust that whatever recipe you're using is correct and wait until the cook time is over to open that oven door and check out your beautiful bird.