I’ll be spending Thanksgiving with my girlfriend’s family. Like most families, they split up the dishes and Linda is supposed to make the bird. Somehow I managed to volunteer to pick up the bird and cook it. Problem: I’ve never cooked a turkey.
I’m pretty much set on spatchcocking the turkey. Beyond that, I’m lost.
Any tips on brining/seasoning/cooking would be highly appreciated.
Note: I saw a recipe for a citrus scented bird that was nixed. The leftover turkey meat will be going into congee and citrus + congee doesn’t work well (or so I’m told).
Standard Market in Westmont or Naperville sells fresh brined turkeys. They do it in house and do a fine job. Worth the time.
I like Keller’s recipe because it is easy and Turkey tastes like napkins anyway so I don’t want to put a lot of effort in to it.
If you want an easy brine, you can just use kosher salt.
I recommend, however, brining the bird two nights before you want to cook it. The day before you roast it, drain it from the brine and
use paper towels to thoroughly dry it. Then place it in the fridge overnight on a platter or something similar to catch whatever additional
moisture is left. The overnight in the fridge really helps to dry out the skin and will give you crispier skin.
Again, if you want easy, then take the bird out of the fridge at least an hour or two before you roast. Turn the oven to 325 degrees. Place the bird
in a large roasting pan with a rack to raise it up above the surface of the pan. Coat the exterior with either butter or olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, black
pepper, and either rosemary or herbs de provence (including inside the bird). Depending on the size of the bird, you’ll need to roast it for 2-3+ hours.
If you’re making gravy, make most of the gravy while the bird is roasting. There are plenty of recipes; I tend to rehydrate dried mushrooms and add those to the gravy with the mushroom water and porcini powder. When the bird is done roasting, pour the drippings into a separator cup (if you have it), and let the fat rise to the top. Then pour the non-fat drippings into the gravy you’ve been making, and add a cornstarch slurry to thicken at the end.
Fresh, not frozen, and you don’t have to worry about thawing.
Dethawing is an oxymoron.
Gravy? Add milk, S&P to the roasting pan, toss in chopped up bits of Turkey from the bottom of the carcass, cook on stove in roasting pan over med heat. Add roux to thicken. Gravy shouldn’t be long and drawn out. Just delicious and fattening!
I follow a process very similar to what Bruce has written. I definitely recommend the day in the fridge to air dry. Also, if you want to prevent overcooking the breast, roast the turkey breast-side down first for about 45 minutes, and then rotate it to breast-side up. If 18 pounds or more, you may wish to give each side 15-20 minutes on top before finally roasting breast-side up.
Let the turkey rest a good 30 minutes before carving. You’ll be finishing the gravy at this time anyway.
A friend on a different wine board posted this three years ago. I’ve cooked three years of perfect turkeys using his advice. The first post in the thread isn’t bad advice either.
"liberally season the outside and cavity of the bird with your choice of rub… at minimum salt and pepper, but i use garlic powder and a basic cajun rub as well. place a large handful herbs of you choice as well as rough chopped mirepoix in the cavity as well…
i make a long aluminum foil ‘snake’ that i coil up in the bottom of the roasting pan… this acts as a platform for the bird to sit on… after the bird goes on, i place some chiken stock in the pan with large cuts of mirepoix…
place the bird uncovered in 500F oven for approx 30 mins to get the skin brown… after that, cover with foil and back the oven down to 250F… cook until internal temp of thinkest part of breast is 155F, after 20 mins resting the carryover temp will get to 160. for a 20lb bird, this cooking time is approx 2hrs.
while resting, strain stock into sauce pan and bring to simmer. wisk in corn starch slurry until desired consistency. season with salt, pepper, and splash of balsamic.
the veg that were in the bottom of the roasting pan are one of my fav things to eat on that day
side note… basting is the devil and pretty much useless. turkey has skin on it… so do we. what happens when we take a shower?? water runs right off us just as it does the turkey when you baste it. the only thing is does is lower your oven temp by constantly going in, thus increasing cooking time, thus potentially drying out the bird"
We just did five turkeys totaling 90 pounds for Saturday. We piled the turkeys all in a giant three foot tall pot lined with a commercial grade plastic bag, added two cups honey and three cups kosher salt mixed with enough water to cover. Tied up the bag, put it in the refrigerator and left it for 24 hours. Remove, rinse, smear with corn oil, roast in oven. People went nuts and we had to make impromptu doggie bags because they wanted to bring it back to the shelter with them. We ended up with no leftovers and we only had 65 people, including a bunch of kids.
I THINK THE KEY is not to overcook. I brought my fancy instant read thermometer and checked them constantly. I pulled them when the breast was about 165 degrees instead of the 180-ish that those popup gizmos use. Half the gizmos popped from continued cooking after we pulled the turkeys and they were much moister than normal. Especially important if your FIL had a Chinese Restaurant. The Chinese think we murder poultry by over-cooking it AND THEY ARE RIGHT.
You can add other things to the brine besides salt and honey or sugar but I do not think it’s necessary. If you do, go with something intense because it picks up only a small bit of the flavor. Lemon or orange rind. Cayenne pepper. Fresh ground black pepper. Whatever floats your boat.
My last turkey I cooked like the Zuni Cafe chicken recipe - dry brine (ie just smother in salt and whatever herbs/spices you want) for 3 days in the fridge to dry it out, blast it at 500 for 45 minutes or so, then lower temp to 400ish to finish. No trussing. Small bird took barely 2 hours to cook.