Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21, 2011: The Secret to the Best, Juiciest Turkey Recipe

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post with my mother’s stuffing recipe, I’ve been in charge of making the Thanksgiving dinner for quite some time. It was back in 1986 that I was first pressed into service and I’ve been doing it alone ever since (which I love, by the way – cooking is the best part of Thanksgiving as far as I’m concerned!). Over the years I’ve experimented with different ways of roasting the turkey so it would come out both flavorful and moist. By far, the secret I’m about to share with you is the best way I have ever roasted a turkey.

The secret? Brining.

Just as brining chicken makes it melt-in-your-mouth moist, so does it work for turkey. The only difference is that you’re working with a bigger bird so you have to start the day before to ensure that all those wonderful flavors in the brine are incorporated in your turkey.

There are no exact measurements to this recipe; just try throwing in a handful of herbs and spices at a time, adding a bit more for a large (16 lbs. or more) turkey or less for a small (12 lbs. or under) one.

Roasted Brined Turkey

The day before roasting, clean the turkey and remove giblets. Cook and save for dressing (see stuffing recipe) or as a treat for your dogs.

Brine

Enough water to cover your turkey in brining container (at least 2 gallons)
1 ½ cups kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
Juniper berries
Black peppercorns
Allspice berries
Whole cloves
Fresh thyme and rosemary leaves
Garlic cloves
Bay leaves

Mix together the brining solution in a large container, big enough to hold your turkey. If you can, store it in your refrigerator overnight; otherwise, if it’s cold enough (38 degrees or less), you can store the covered container outside. An ice chest works really well for this because it’s insulated and won’t allow the turkey to refreeze if left outdoors overnight.

Roasting the Turkey

The next day, remove the turkey from the brining solution (discard - I usually dump it in the yard) and pat dry. Stuff the inside cavity with slices of orange and lemon, along with smashed garlic cloves and fresh sage leaves. Place the turkey, breast side up, in a roasting pan. Take softened butter and rub it all over the skin. Sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning and cover loosely with foil. Place in low oven, about 275 degrees. Roast one half hour for every pound, removing each hour and basting with pan juices.

When drumsticks move freely and meat begins to pull away from the bone, the turkey is done. Remove it from the oven and let sit on a platter, tented with foil, for up to half an hour.

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