Thanksgiving is this week, so it's time to start preparing for
the turkey. Everyone always asks me how I cook my bird, so I figured
this would be a great time to talk about it step-by-step.
First, buy your turkey ASAP, and start thawing it in your refrigerator by Sunday. Brine it on Wednesday afternoon. Brining is just soaking something in a saltwater solution or, in this case, a salt-sugar solution.
After your turkey is brined, shove some butter under the breast skin, tuck the wings under, and stuff the cavity with some aromatics. I'm a bit old school when it comes to the actual roasting of the bird because I still use a roasting bag. Yep, a culinary degree will not change certain things that just work well.
I also like to use an inside-outside thermometer. This type of thermometer has a cord that goes from the turkey to the outside of your oven to the digital component. If you buy anything this holiday season, buy one of these thermometers.
Then the last step is to not cut or pick at the cooked turkey for one hour, allowing it to rest and come to full temperature. Then carve and serve it, and listen with a smile to the oohs and ahhs!
Shelley Baltz received her culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University. See more from her at thewrittenkitchen.com, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brined and Roasted Turkey
Yield: A 12-pound turkey
One 12 lb. turkey, thawed and innards removed
cup kosher salt
cup brown sugar
cup peppercorns, optional
4 bay leaves, optional
1 onion, quartered, optional
4 garlic cloves, optional
2 gallons of water (1 quart boiling and 7 quarts ice cold)
For the aromatics and skin
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 apple, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh sage
-- pepper, to taste
-- canola oil
-- roasting bag
1 Twelve to 24 hours before roasting the turkey, dissolve the kosher salt and brown sugar in 1 quart of boiling water. Cool this liquid by adding ice. Add the remaining brining ingredients, if using, and the remaining 1 gallons of very cold water. At this point, taste the brining solution. It should taste like sea water. Submerge the turkey completely in the brining liquid and refrigerate overnight.
2 The next morning, or after at least 4 hours (depending on the size of your turkey), take the turkey out of the brining solutions and pat dry, inside and out. Preheat your convection oven to 350 degrees.
3 Microwave the apple and onion for about 4 minutes, or until somewhat soft. Place the softened apple and onion in the cavity with the fresh rosemary and sage. Spread the butter under the skin of the turkey breast. Tuck the wing tips under. Spread canola oil all over the birds skin and sprinkle with pepper.
4 Place the turkey into the roasting bag according to the bag maker's directions (sometimes you have to add flour to the bag). Seal the bag and place the turkey on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan. Place the thermometer inside the thickest part of the thigh, through the bag, without touching bone. Roast for about 1 to 2 hours or until the temperature reaches 160 degrees.
5 Carefully cut open the bag over the breast and pull it down the sides. Keep roasting the turkey until it's golden brown all over or until, at least, the breast meat is browned. Use your turkey breast helmet (see note) at this point to continue browning the rest of the turkey. Cook and brown until the temperature reaches 170 degrees. A 10-12 pound turkey usually takes no more than 3 hours to fully cook.
6 Remove the turkey from the oven and cover it with foil. Allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes, but preferably 1 hour before carving. This will allow the turkey to reach 175 degrees and also let the juices settle into the meat.
Notes: The recipe calls for 2 gallons of water. If you need more brining liquid to fully submerge the turkey, make another gallon of the brining liquid by using 1 quart boiling water, cup kosher salt, cup brown sugar, and 3 quarts cold water.
All cooking times are based on a convection oven. Add another 30 minutes to 1 hour of cooking time for non-convection ovens.
You can make a helmet to protect the breast meat by using heavy- duty foil to form it over the turkey breast before you put it in the roasting bag. Then you can just place it over the breast meat to prevent overcooking when you are trying to cook/brown the rest of the turkey.
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