Every year about this time friends and relatives begin calling to ask if they can microwave their Thanksgiving turkeys.
In a word, yes. But the big bird must be plumply compact and weigh no more than 12 pounds. Larger birds just don't cook evenly in a microwave oven.
Although turkey will brown somewhat in the microwave, it won't be as richly amber as oven-roasted birds unless you heighten the color by brushing on a little butter or margarine.
Guidelines Get Best Results
Just how fast do turkeys microwave? Two to three times as fast as they cook the tried-and-true way. They'll be juicily tender too, but their flavor may not be as well developed as birds roasted slowly by conventional means. For best results, follow these few guidelines:
--Always allow a two-inch clearance between bird, oven walls and ceiling. With any less space, microwaves will bounce back into bird and overcook protruding areas as well as those nearest oven walls.
--Stuff bird just before it goes into the microwave oven, not earlier.
--Do not salt turkey before microwaving; it will toughen and dry.
--Never rush cooking of turkey by microwaving at higher than recommended power levels, the bird will dry in some spots and undercook in others. At MEDIUM (50% power) turkeys cook uniformly, losing little moisture and few nutrients.
MICROWAVED TURKEY WITH HERB BREAD DRESSING
1 (12-pound) oven-ready turkey
1/4 cup butter, margarine or bacon drippings
2 medium onions, minced
2 large stalks celery, minced
6 cups 1/2-inch cubes stale bread
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups hot chicken broth or water
Remove fat and giblets from body cavities of turkey. Remove any metal clamps. Set aside.
Melt butter in 3-quart casserole covered with wax paper in microwave on HIGH (100% power) 55 to 65 seconds. Add onions and celery. Cover and microwave on HIGH 5 minutes. Add bread cubes, poultry seasoning, parsley, salt, pepper and chicken broth and toss to mix. Loosely pack dressing into body and neck cavities of turkey.
Close neck and body cavities securely with wooden (never metal) skewers, then truss bird. Arrange, breast down, in microwave-safe baking dish, preferably on non-metal rack. If bird wobbles, prop with crumbled wax paper. (If not using rack, remove drippings with turkey baster or spoon off as they accumulate to prevent overcooking where bird touches juices.)
Microwave, uncovered, 10 minutes on HIGH, turn pan 180 degrees, reduce power to MEDIUM (50% power) and roast, uncovered, 11 to 13 minutes per pound, turning breast up at half time, rotating pan 180 degrees and brushing bird with melted unsalted butter or margarine. Insert microwave-safe meat thermometer into large inside thigh muscle, not touching bone, or in middle of dressing. (Do not use automatic temperature probe that can give false, elevated readings. Never rely on "pop-up" thermometers as few work properly in microwave ovens.)
As bird nears doneness, shield breast bone, drumsticks and other thin or protruding areas, if necessary, with 1- to 2-inch foil strips to prevent drying or overbrowning
Test bird for doneness after minimum microwave time in both thigh and breast. Thermometer should register 175 to 180 degrees in thigh, 170 in thickest part of breast and 160 to 165 in middle of dressing. If bird is not done, continue microwaving in 10-minute intervals. Do not undercook turkey (internal temperature will rise only 5 degrees during standing).
When turkey tests done, remove from microwave oven, tent loosely with foil and let stand flat on heat-resistant surface 20 minutes before serving. Makes 12 to 14 servings.
Note: In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.