Cooking the turkey, the centerpiece of our cultural Thanksgiving table, is often seen as an intimidating task. I’m sure as children we all remember the Thanksgivings of yore with dried out, burnt or not quite done turkey. But I’m glad to say that cooking a turkey doesn’t have to be a challenge, and by following a few steps, you too can be making a rich, succulent bird.
The recipe for this turkey can be found over at www.epicurious.com: Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs and Shallot-Dijon Gravy. I won’t reprint the recipe here, but you can get it over at Epicurious and then follow along with my tips to make your bird the best.
Tip number one: Forget brining, use the salt rub instead. Brining the turkey is a great way to impart flavor and make the bird juicy. But introducing all this extra moisture also has the tendency of making the meat mushy. Unless you are buying an all natural, organic, or kosher bird, the turkey already has been injected with a brine solution. Those types of turkeys hold up well to the brining process. For everything else I prefer the salt rub instead. Salt rubs work by drawing out moisture and redistributing the salty/seasoned moisture back into the bird. You’ll lock in more flavor and you won’t need coolers full of liquid and ice to do it.
Tip number two: Don’t stuff the bird. Make the stuffing in a separate pan, you’ll have better tasting stuffing, and the turkey will cook faster. Instead put aromatics into the cavity like chopped onion, apple, or lemon.
Tip number three: Ditch the oven bag. Yeah, I use oven bags, to hold the turkey while the salt rub is working. but other than that I prefer to baste the turkey while it is in the over. A solution of butter, pan juices and a little extra water, if necessary makes for an excellent baste. Do this about once every 45 minutes while the turkey cooks.
Tip number four: Let it rest. Take the turkey out of the oven at about 165 degrees. This is ten degrees under the serving temperature. Cover it with foil and let is rest. The turkey will continue to cook and will raise in temp to about 175 degrees. This also gives the juices inside the turkey a chance to settle, so you won’t lose all the juice and flavor when you carve it. Oh yeah, don’t guess on doneness, invest in a meat thermometer and use it to check when the turkey is ready.
Tip number five: Carve it up butcher style. The popular trend of carving turkeys is to use the butcher method. Unless you want the fancy presentation of carving large slices of breast meat off the finished bird, I recommend to forget that and use this method instead. The butcher method involves removing the leg, thigh and wing sections, and then carefully removing the breast pieces and carving against the grain for more tender turkey. Full details and video clips on this method can be found here.
There you have it, cook this turkey and you’ll be the toast the of the Thanksgiving table. Good luck and gobble, gobble, gobble.