3 Steps to a Perfectly Delicious Turkey
For some reason people get all worked up about making the turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner. I’m guessing its because it’s usually the dish central for the whole affair. So I guess a lot of people get performance anxiety.
Fortunately, I’m here to say, no need to worry. Baking a turkey is really actually quite easy. Like really that is it. For all practical purposes its just a over-sized chicken.
The three keys to having a tasty and properly cooked turkey are:
2. Season sufficiently
3. Buy a thermometer
Brining basically means to soak your turkey in a salty water bath. Thanks for the magic of science and osmosis or whatever after a few hours your bird will absorb some of the seasoned salty water into its flesh resulting in a moister bird once its done cooking.
With our impromptu Thanksgiving dinner we left the bird in its brine bath for a little over 6 hours, a lot less than I usually do because we purchased the bird the day of the event. I was a little concerned (which really means I was having a full on turkey melt down) that it was going to be enough time. I CAN VERY HAPPILY SAY IT WAS!
Besides using enough salt and pepper etc in the brine, you are really going to have to bring it with the seasonings for the bird while cooking. I realize it looks like way too much. But its not. Think about it, you probably usually use about 1-2 sprigs of rosemary when making baked chicken, and that probably only weights 2-3 kg (4-6 lb). So remember to use 2-3 times more herbs and seasonings when baking your bird compared to your regular run of the mill chicken.
Buy a Thermometer
Just go out and buy a food/meat thermometer. You don’t want have your well plated turkey sitting on the dining table all decked out, only to carve into it and have red juices run out of its cavities cause is not cooked inside. And perhaps even worse, you over cook it and carve into a leathery bird.
You can buy a cheap on at the supermarket like we did, which will only set you back a few bucks. Or you can get a fancy digital one if you are planning on putting it to more than the once a year use.
The turkey is done once it reaches an internal temperature of 165˚F/73˚C
Hopefully your cheap one will be better than the one I bought, that accurately read the temperature in Celsius, but it had a little picture with the range for the ideal internal temperature for various food that coincided with Fahrenheit readings.
15-16 lb (approx. 7 kg) whole turkey (fresh or thawed)
approximately one gallon ice water
3 cups water
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 large onion, peeled
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only chopped
2 sprig sage, leaves only chopped
6 sprigs thyme, leaves only
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
zest of one organic lemon
4 tbsp olive oil
1 mandarin, halved
1/2 onion, peeled
4 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs sage
Prepare the brine. Bring all the brine ingredients to a boil until sugar and salt is dissolved. Stirring pot as needed. Let brine cool to room temperature
Place turkey into a large clean container (cooler, plastic bin, sink) just big enough to hold it (about 5 gallons). Pour in brine and ice water to cover. Let turkey sit in brine for at least 6 hours to a max of 24 hrs. Ensuring temperature doesn’t get over 40˚F/4˚C
Preheat the oven to 450˚F/230˚C.
Place herbs on roasting rack set on top of a roasting (or directly on roasting pan if you don’t have one). Remove turkey from brine and set on rack. Place mandarin and onion in cavity. Pat outside of bird dry with paper towels. Rub with olive oil.
Place turkey in oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until skin is lightly golden. Then cover breast with loosely placed aluminum foil. Turn oven down to 350˚F/180˚C and bake for approximately another 2-2.5 hours. Turkey is done when internal temperature ready 165˚F/73˚C when inserted into a deep part of thigh, being careful not to touch bone.
Let bird rest outside the oven for about 20 minutes before carving.
This recipe serves about 16 people, considering that you will be eating lots of other things. Or less with lots of leftovers.
Active time about 30 minutes. Bake time: about 3 hours.
+ a few hrs before for Brine