Every year I see the media barrage of new and interesting tips and tricks to roast a Thanksgiving Turkey. I’ve read so many silly recipes over the years that basically instruct people how to make a soggy-skinned death trap in only 78 steps… Do not be fooled!
There are not a million ways to roast that perfect bird with the crispy skin and juicy, fully-cooked insides. Don’t let this holiday intimidate and overwhelm you! Keep it simple and preserve your sanity.
There are a million ways to season it, a million+ side dishes, and a bazillion things to bicker about with the fam as you scarf it down… But, in the name of simplicity and all that is holy about a well-roasted bird — I give you the not-so-secret secret: There is only ONE way to oven-roast a turkey in a foolproof and tasty manner. Here it is:
Brine that bird:
After or or during the last day of defrosting, take that turkey (insides removed) and plop it in a brining bag, cooler, et al, with a gallon of apple cider, a cup of white or brown sugar (or both), and a cup of salt, add more water to be sure the fowl is fully submerged for 12-24 hours. Make sure the bird is kept refrigerated in an actual refrigerator, or if it is near (but not below) freezing outside, you can just stick that cooler on your back porch for 12-24 hours. If you like, feel free to add other flavors, herbs, and spices at this point (sometimes I add thyme, liquid smoke, and wine… Don’t be uptight, you are the master of this magnificent no-longer-feathered-friend — Put on some ‘Free Bird’ and do as you like…
Dry it and tie it:
Take the turkey out of the brine and dry it off with a clean cloth or paper towel. If you are going to put anything in the carcass cavity, let it be fresh herbs, and nothing more — I know you think you are supposed to keep it moist, but these birds are fattened up for a reason — they are self-basting behemoths. Sprinkle a little salt, pepper, and herb of your choice over the skin after trussing (i.e. tie the legs together and tuck the wings under). Here is a link to a great, easy demonstration. ROAST YOUR VEGGIES SEPARATELY! Vegetables/fruits/stuffing create more steam and lengthen your cooking time. You want to roast the turkey, not send it to the sauna.
Roast and boast!:
Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, cover the top loosely with foil (tighter around the wing tips and legs), stick a pop-up meat thermometer in the deepest part of the breast, and shove it in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes — Then take the temp down to 275 degrees… for a LONG TIME. I can’t tell you how long because I don’t know how much your bird weighs, I’m only human (about 30-45 minutes per lb.)!
When the disposable thermometer pops, remove the foil and take the internal temperature with a real meat thermometer to be sure you are actually at 165-170 degrees. Try not to open the oven before then. Leave the turkey in the oven for 8-10 more minutes or until the skin is golden or dark brown, however you like it (if it hasn’t crisped to that point already) — I like it somewhere between cognac and black, we all have our family traditions.
When you’ve reached that perfect temp and the juices are clear, take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes while you make amazing gravy with the drippings… Carve and serve… and gloat.
(I’ve thrown in a couple photos of my awesome and hilarious father-in-law about to devour my last fresh-from-the-oven bird, as well as some of my favorite thanksgiving dessert creations for inspiration — A delicious Butter Caramel Bacon Pie and my Pumpkin Sweet Potato Pie with Sage Meringue)
We’re on the road this Thanksgiving as we continue our Free Range Quest without a full-size oven and we have a less-traditional meal planned — So, I beg of you, send us pictures of your holiday turkey!