How to prepare a juicy, flavorful turkey for Thanksgiving Day. Includes instructions for brining, trussing and roasting a turkey.
When you think about Thanksgiving day, where does your mind wander first? Does it mosey on over to the casseroles? Or does it make it a b-line for the pies? After visions of green bean casserole quit dancing in my head, my mind typically makes its way to the turkey. Will it be roasted? Or will it be fried? Maybe the husband will smoke one this year. There are so many options nowadays when it comes to cooking the main course, it can be hard to choose.
PERFECT TURKEY ESSENTIALS
If I’m in charge, the bird will most certainly be roasted. And, if you too intend to roast a turkey this Thanksgiving day, this is the place to be. Below are the essentials you need to slam out a beautiful, moist and obsessively delicious turkey. However, before we get too far into roasting, everyone should know, one thing about cooking the turkey should always remain the same — the brine.
HOW TO BRINE A TURKEY
What is a turkey brine? A simple turkey brine consists of Kosher salt and granulated sugar. The easiest way I’ve found to put the brine together is to boil the salt, sugar, and water on the stovetop until dissolved. Then, place a brining bag to a roasting pan and have it open, ready and waiting next to the sink.
Once your salt and sugar mixture has cooled, place the prepared turkey breast-side down in the brining bag and pour over mixture to cover. Then, using the faucet or a large pitcher, add water (holding the sides of the brining bag upward to the best of your ability) until the turkey is covered. Seal the brining bag (I use a thick rubber band for good measure) and refrigerate for 24-48 hours before roasting the turkey.
WHY BRINE A TURKEY?
You know what a brine is; now, let’s talk why it’s important:
Not using a brine for a turkey on Thanksgiving day is like throwing a kid into a lake who can’t swim, and just hoping for the best. Or you could look at it like this: Maybe you don’t do the brine thing, and just maybe your turkey will come out perfectly juicy and tender. But, then again, maybe not.
The brine serves the same function as a good insurance policy. For instance, say you get busy or overwhelmed in the kitchen that day (as many of us do) the timer goes off…but your distracted and you forget to pull the turkey. It stays in the oven a little too long. Guess what? The brine saves the day. Now, let’s say you’ve accidentally cooked it at too high of a temperature. Again, the brine could quite possibly save the day. Are you seeing a trend here?
Even if you don’t overcook the turkey, and you don’t mess up on the temperature, the brine ensures big flavor throughout the meat, flavor you could only get by otherwise injecting the bird. It’s an extra step, but one well worth taking.
HERBED BUTTER FOR ROASTED TURKEY
Yall. The compound butter in combination with a brine could not possibly make for a more divine, flavorful roasted turkey. The term “compound butter” may sound deceptively difficult, but have no fear, it’s really quite simple. A compound butter is typically a mixture of room-temperature butter, fresh herbs, and seasoning. Often times it will contain another oil as well to raise the overall smoke point. In this recipe in particular, we will be using herbs that pair beautifully with the turkey like fresh thyme, sage, and parsley.
The spices will be TAK’s House Seasoning — an uber-flavorful mix of Kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper. You that recipe here. I use this mix on chicken, pork and (obviously) turkey, and it is perfect to have on hand for quick-fix weeknight meals, but especially on Thanksgiving day.
Lastly, we’ll throw in a little canola oil to get that smoke point up and help that birdy along its way to a beautiful and enticing golden brown color. Grab a fork, mix it all up, and that’s all there is to a compound butter.
The turkey is properly cooked according to the USDA once the thermometer registers 165° in the breast and 175° in the thigh.
However, I would like to bring to your attention that once large cuts of meat are pulled from the oven, that hunk of protein is going to continue to cook as it sits on the counter, and will likely go up at least 10° more. So! With that being said (and health department, you know it’s true, so don’t go waving any fingers at me) it is perfectly fine to pull your bird out 10° prior to the final desired cooking temperature.
Just pull it, tent it with foil and step away for 15 minutes or so. Allowing the bird to rest, will also ensure that the juices redistribute throughout the body, making for a more juicy and flavorful bird.
And that my friends, is just about everything you need to know to rock a stellar roasted turkey on Thanksgiving day. The rest is ready and waiting for you in the recipe. Please, enjoy!
- brining bag
- large roasting pan fitted with a rack
- butchers twine
- instant-read thermometer
- 13 - 16 pound turkey
- 1 cup Kosher salt + 1 teaspoon separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 5-5 1/2 quarts of water separated
- 8 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons canola oil separated
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 4 teaspoons TAK House Seasoning
- 3 carrots cut into thirds
- 3 stalks of celery cut into thirds
- 2 shallots halved
- 1 garlic head halved
- 1/4 c Fresh Sage left whole
- 1/4 c Fresh Rosemary left whole
- Allow 3-4 days for turkey to thaw completely in the refrigerator.
- The day or night before you intend to serve the turkey, bring Kosher salt, sugar and 2 quarts of water to a roaring boil in a large sauce pan. Allow to boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and salt have dissolved and are no longervisible. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
If desired, carefully remove the neck and tail of the bird using poultry shears, and trim any excess skin. Discard of the innards or reserve for another use.
- Place brining bag in a large rimmed roasting pan and add the turkey breast-side down. Very carefully, pour cooled brine over the turkey along with 3 - 3 1/2 quarts more room temperature water, enough so that the water just covers the turkey once secured in bag. Release as much air as possible from the brining bag before tightly securing closed. Place in the refrigerator and allow to brine overnight.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 425°.
About 1-2 hours before you intend to roast the turkey, remove it from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel all over, and allow the turkey to sit out at room temperature to remove the chill. In the meantime, start putting together your compound butter.
To make the compound butter, using a whisk or fork, mix together butter, 2 tbsp of canola, minced herbs and TAK Seasoning until well-combined. Set aside until ready to use.
On a large work surface, begin to separate the skin of the turkey from the flesh and massage two-thirds of the compound butter under the skin of the turkey, minding the legs, thighs, and wings as well as the breasts.
Use the remaining compound butter to massage evenly across the surface of the turkey. Drizzle the outside of the turkey with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of Kosher salt. Massage over the surface of the turkey once more. If you would like to add aromatics, place them within the carcass of the bird.
- Truss the bird using butchers twine: Tightly secure together the legs of the turkey by tying a string of butchers twine tightly around the end of the drum. Using a much longer strand of twine, place it under the backbone of the bird and center it across the middle of the wings. Bring the twine up and over the wings and secure tightly with a knot atop the breast bone. Reposition wings if necessary so that they are neatly tucked under the twine. Take a third piece of twine and loop it underneath the other two pieces, then gently pull it upwards until the turkey legs begin to come inward and are slightly elevated. Secure with a knot and trim all of the excess twine.
- Carefully transfer the turkey to a large roasting pan, fitted with a rack and roast for 30 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°, lightly tent with aluminum foil and continue to roast for 2 hours.
After 2 hours have passed, use a digital cooking thermometer to check the turkey for doneness. If your turkey has not yet reached the optimal temperature, re-cover it with aluminum foil and return to the oven.
Continue checking the temperature about every 15 minutes or so thereafter.
Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
*If your turkey is smaller or larger by a few pounds, you will need to either decrease or increase the cook time.
Would pair well with: