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Chat Leftovers: Turkey talk

By Jane Touzalin

Only two more Free Range chat days until Thanksgiving!

So if you've got pressing questions about holiday food, tune in today at noon and get some answers. Not only can we help you figure out what to cook and how to cook it, but we can also help you get in and out of the grocery store in record time. Read today's story about the evolving technology of self-checkout lanes, then take our poll and let us know whether you think they help or hinder the shopping experience.

Today I've got two Thanksgiving-related leftovers, one about turkey basters, the other about fresh turkeys.

Any recommendations for a baster that is easy to clean?

Alas, I don't think the perfect baster exists yet. To me, the best baster material is glass, because it's easy to clean and doesn't hang on to grease. But every glass baster I've seen has a very tiny, narrow tip that's too hard to wash. I suppose a pipe cleaner would help do the job, but I just don't want to work that hard.

However, when I was doing some online research a couple of weeks ago, looking for a new roasting pan, I ran into a likely-looking possibility called the Dexas Fill-a-Baster. Normally I don't like to push specific brands, but I like the looks of this baster. It's got a wide top, and the (silicone) basting tube seems to be a little shorter and wider than usual, which means you can get a dishcloth in there and scrub around; you can also put it in the dishwasher. It has two removable tips, a brush and a regular suction tip -- again, a bonus for cleaning. I haven't tried it, but it might be worth a shot. Seems to be fairly widely available.

If anyone out there wants to nominate their favorite baster, please add a comment.

I've ordered my first fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. What do I need to know to cook this bird? I've only ever working with thawed, previously frozen turkeys and don't want to screw up any of the natural fresh turkey goodness.

I'm not trying to wimp out, but here's the best answer: The farmer or company that sold you the bird will give you the best advice on how to cook it. You didn't say whether it's a heritage bird or a free-range organic one or something else (even Butterball sells fresh turkeys nowadays), or whether it will have been freshly killed, so without knowing that, I can't tell you what to do. But your bird will almost certainly come with very good instructions. If you're nervous, call up the place you ordered it from and ask. (If you bought it from a farm, some of them have cooking instructions posted on their Web site.) They want your turkey to be delicious -- heck, they want you to buy one from them next year -- so they're invested in helping you. Have a great Thanksgiving dinner.

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  | November 10, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers, Holiday  | Tags:  Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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I don't want to sound flip, but IMO the best baster is, simply, no baster at all. Basting, from my own experience and the advice of others, is a pointless exercise that hurts more than it helps. It adds no measurable flavor or juiciness to the turkey, and it causes your oven to lose heat which means the job will take longer and the turkey will wind up dryer. This is one time that your mother was wrong. Resist opening the oven door. Put that bird in there with a good digital probe thermometer, leave it alone as much as possible, and take it out when it's done.

Posted by: johnb_dca | November 10, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

The organic free-range turkey has been ordered, but that's not what I'm worried about. This is the first time ever, holiday or regular day, that I've had to do a gluten-free meal! I've found some websites that sound pretty good, so I feel like I have a handle on techniques and substitutions. Do you know of any commonly-available brands of gluten-free products that I might be able to find on both the East and West Coasts, so I can test some recipes before I fly out? I'd prefer to use mixes and prepared items, rather than have to by 10 different types of GF flours that I'll probably never use again (in all likelihood, this will be a one-off event). Alternatively, do you know of any GF bakeries or restaurants that ship?

Posted by: northgs | November 10, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

What I have found with a fresh turkey is that it takes a lot less time to cook. Definitely look for any instructions that are included or ask the person/place you bought it from. I agree, they want it to taste great and for you to buy from them again.

Posted by: margaret6 | November 10, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

northgs-where are you? Here? If you're here, and want to wimp out on a dessert, I recommend Red Velvet's GF/Vegan cupcakes.

As for sides, mashed potatoes are GF. Yams with marshmallows? Same thing. Hahaha. The sides are easy. You can make GF stuffing with GF bread-I recommend baking your own though, the store bought kind is universally gross. Bob's Red Mill makes a good mix, as does Pamela's.

Thanksgiving is a pretty easy holiday to go GF on.

Posted by: queendweeb | November 10, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Don't baste - turn the turkey over. The breast will have marks on it from your rack, but you'll get over it. The dark meat will cook faster, so your white meat won't dry out. Also, the fat runs down from the dark meat to the breast. Turn the turkey over for the last 20 minutes to brown that dented breast and it will be fine.

We brine, even with a fresh turkey (got in the habit overseas and the kids prefer the taste) so our turkey is always very juicy without basting.

Basters can be handy, however, if you don't own a separator (and don't have time to freeze your pan drippings). Pour the drippings into a tall, skinny container. Use the baster to suck up the juice from the bottom and leave the fat.

Posted by: drmary | November 10, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

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