First, pick your featured protein. Next, determine how you want it prepared.
When it comes to cooking the perfect turkey, prime rib, or pork roast, there is always a feeling of uncertainty. Here are some insider tips to lessen those feelings and create the long-lasting holiday memories that food can provide.
Brining is a common process for meats that do not have natural marbling — meaning fat running through muscle tissue. Turkey and pork fall into that category. A brining process will help add moisture and juiciness, but it can also add a layer of flavor. Instead of plain water, don’t be afraid to add wine, beer, or liquor to the brine for a punch of flavor. But be conscious of acid. Too much acid from vinegar or citrus, for example, and you will end up making the protein tough. I like to brine for 24 hours to maximize flavor and tenderness.
Now here’s the really fun part — deciding how to cook your center-of-the-plate protein for hungry guests. For turkey, options include deep frying, smoking, or roasting. A pork roast can be smoked or roasted, as can prime rib.
For a great flavor boost with any of these applications, try a rub. I suggest applying the rub the night before, then wrapping the protein with film and refrigerating. Wrapping helps the dry herbs and spices penetrate the meat, providing a better release of flavor as a result.
- Brining (retains and adds moisture).
- Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
- Salt and season the bird, then let it rest at room temperature for an hour before cooking (retains moisture).
- Fresh is better than frozen for a juicy bird.
- Let a frozen bird thaw naturally under refrigeration for a juicer bird.
- Rub flavored butter under the skin before roasting.
- Start cooking breast side down — white meat has less myoglobin than dark (myoglobin creates moisture).
- Roast on a bed of vegetables.
- Cook covered. Remove cover for last 30-40 minutes and raise oven temperature for crispy skin.
- Allow to rest once removed from the oven so juices re-distribute before carving for a juicier bird.
- Cook 15-20 minutes per lb. when roasting (oven temp 350 degrees F).
- Cook 3-4 minutes per lb. when deep frying (oil temp 350 degrees F).
- Don’t stuff a raw turkey (causes cross contamination and doesn’t allow heat circulation).
- Smoke Turkey at 235 degrees F. Cook 30 minutes per lb.
Pork Loin Prep:
- After seasoning the roast and letting it rest for an hour, brown or sear the surface before cooking in the oven to help retain juices.
- Cook 25 minutes per lb. in 325-degree oven to internal temperature of 145-degrees.
- Salt and season loin and allow to sit at room temperature for an hour before cooking (for a juicier loin).
- Remove from oven when internal temperature hits 140-142. Roast will continue to cook for 10-15 minutes to raise internal temperature. This is referred to as carryover cooking.
- Allowing the roast to rest for 15-20 minutes after cooking and before carving allows juices to re-distribute and creates a juicer pork loin.
- Cook on a bed of vegetables covered for a juicier pork loin by creating steam.
- Smoke pork loin at 220 degrees F. Cook for 30 minutes per lb.
Prime Rib Prep:
- Salt and season the outside of the roast and allow to sit for an hour at room temperature before cooking, creating a juicier roast.
- Cook 16-18 minutes per lb. in oven set to 350 degrees for a rare to medium rare roast.
- Cook 35-40 minutes per lb. in a smoker at 225 degrees for a rare to medium rare roast.
- Sear or brown the surface of the roast before moving to oven to cook.
- Cook on a bed of vegetables covered for a juicier roast.
- Remove from oven 4-5 degrees short of desired internal temperature. Roast will carryover cook for 15-20 minutes.
- Allow to rest for 20-25 minutes before carving after removal from oven to allow juices to re-distribute.