Intimidated with roasting the Thanksgiving turkey? Fear not! Let us help you take the terror out of the holiday.
There are two ways you can thaw a turkey: in the refrigerator or in cold water. If you are thawing it in the refrigerator, leave the turkey in its original wrapper and place it in a large pan. Allow about 1 day of thawing for every 4-5 pounds. So plan ahead!
If you are thawing it in cold water, completely submerge the wrapped bird and change the water every 30 minutes. You will want to allow 30 minutes per pound for it to thaw.
Ah, the age old question – to stuff or not to stuff the bird. Traditionally the bird has been stuffed, but to prevent any possible health issues, most chefs recommend cooking your stuffing separately. After all, who wants to be known as the host who put everyone in the hospital? Instead, consider filling the turkey’s cavity with aromatics such as sliced apples, lemons, garlic, onions, and whole sprigs of fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, and oregano to impart great flavor.
To serve a really moist turkey, start by brining it. Don’t be put off by the fancy cooking term. Brining is essentially a salt-based marinade. But don’t worry – it won’t make your turkey too salty; rather, it will give it the moisture and flavor it really needs. So, the night before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the giblets and neck and rinse out the inside of the turkey. Then prepare your brine, mixing well until all of the salt is dissolved.
- 2 gallons cold water
- 10 ounces soy sauce
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons dried sage
- 2 tablespoons dried celery seed
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Place your turkey, breast side down into a large container. Pour the brine over the turkey, covering it entirely, and place it in the refrigerator for the specified amount of time.
- 12 lb. or less turkey: 8-12 hours
- 12-14 lbs.: 9-14 hours
- 20 lbs. & over: 15-20 hours
Once the time is up, drain the brine; rinse and pat dry the turkey.
Now you’re ready to start roasting. Place your oven rack on the lowest position. Preheat your oven to 325°. Place the turkey (breast side up) on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan so it’s not sitting directly on the bottom of the pan. If you don’t have a rack, you can always put vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions on the bottom. Tuck the wings back to hold the neck skin in place – this will help stabilize the bird while carving.
Soften half a stick of butter and blend fresh sage and cracked black pepper into it. Gently rub it between the skin and the breast meat.
Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer deep into the lower part of the thigh without touching the bone so you will get a true reading. If you can find one, purchase a digital thermometer with a probe that sits on the counter. You program the temperature you want the turkey to be, and when it reaches that temperature, the thermometer sounds an alert. Place your turkey in the oven and roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 180° in the thigh.
Roasting Times (unstuffed turkey)
- 8-12 lbs.: 3-3 ½ hours
- 12-14 lbs: 3 ½ - 4 hours
- 14-18 lbs: 4-4 ½ hrs.
- 18-20 lbs.: 4 ½ - 4 ¾ hrs.
- 20-24 lbs.: 4 ¾ - 5 ¼ hrs.
When the turkey is about two-thirds done, loosely cover the breast and legs with aluminum foil so they won’t burn and overcook.
When the alarm sounds, very carefully remove the turkey from the pan with two large serving forks and place it on a cutting board to rest for about 15 minutes before carving. Start by removing the wings and the drumsticks and then slice the breast meat.
So there you go! The perfect turkey. Just remember that from start to finish it will take a few days (thawing, brining, etc.), so plan accordingly. But there’s no reason that this can’t be the year you serve the juiciest, most flavorful turkey. Happy holidays!