Just because it#039;s Thanksgiving doesn#039;t mean everyone knows how to cook. In fact, a lot of people fear the holidays because their lack of cooking skills. But no matter how good or how bad a coo

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Here are some tips that may help you feel like a better host on Turkey Day:

– Get under your turkey’s skin to give it an extra punch of flavor. Whip up a mixture of butter, chopped fresh herbs and shallots — use 1/2 cup of butter per 10 pounds of turkey – and carefully lift the skin up and rub the mixture into the meat just beneath the skin.

To produce a turkey that’s moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, place the turkey in the oven at a higher than normal turkey-cooking temperature (around 450 degrees F or 230 degrees C). After 30 minutes, reduce the heat to the temperature that your recipe recommends and cook for the remaining time.

The secret ingredient is your time and lots of it. Buying, preparing, and roasting a turkey are time-consuming. With careful preparation and attention to timing, you will be rewarded with a beautiful and tasty main coarse.

Your first decision will be selecting between a frozen or fresh turkey. A fresh bird is more expensive, but will save you time and precious refrigerator space. Buy the bird the day before you wish to roast it, but remember to reserve your turkey with the butcher. What a catastrophe to find that the only turkey left for your intimate four-person dinner is a 26-pound glacial beast!

A frozen turkey needs to be defrosted. The preferred method is to defrost it in the refrigerator. (Yes, the one filled with the rest of the holiday fare.) Allow one day per 5 pounds. A 15-pound turkey will require three days to defrost thoroughly. An alternate method is to defrost the bird in a cold water bath. Allow 30 minutes per pound. That 15-pound turkey will require only 7 1/2 hours to defrost using this approach. It is also possible to use a combination of these methods.

– Now you are ready to prepare the turkey for roasting. First remove the giblets. This is a fundamental step not only because you might want to use them to make the gravy, but also because it is disconcerting to find these paper-wrapped lumps when carving. Next, rinse the bird inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. If you are stuffing the bird, do so now with a freshly prepared dressing. Stuff loosely, allowing about 1/2 to 3/4 cup per pound of bird. Brush the skin with melted butter or oil. Tuck the drumsticks under the folds of skin or tie together with string. Lastly, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should point towards the body, and should not touch the bone.

Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven. Use the following chart to estimate the time required for baking.

Bake until the skin is a light golden color, and then cover loosely with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but will promote even browning.