Roasting a turkey is the classic American Thanksgiving tradition. Unfortunately, most turn into dry, desiccated pieces of meat. Fear not the turkey nor your oven, because there are ways to make the moist bird you dream of. Firstly, ignore your grandmothers claims that a turkey must be cooked for six plus hours. This is just not true. Secondly, use a little science and brine the bird. This denatures some of the protein, causing it to trap the moisture inside the meat. Finally, let the cooked turkey rest. If you cut into it right away, the juices will just pour out and make the meat dry. We have combined two of our favorite turkey roasting methods into one delicious step by step guide.
Step 1: Buy Your Turkey
The choices for turkey really come in either frozen or fresh. If you buy a frozen turkey at the store, chances are it’s been injected with a salt solution to preserve the meat structure. We like getting a fresh, just killed turkey. The best way to do this is go to your local butcher or meat market and ask to reserve a turkey for Thanksgiving. They’ll ask you how large you want it, so go with 1-1.5 pounds per person it will feed. This might be a more expensive route but it will certainly be the most delicious.
Step 2: Brine Your Turkey
Two days before Thanksgiving, you should look at brining your bird. The salt in the water will make the meat moist and juicy without killing it with saltiness. We love the Pioneer Woman’s brining recipe, found here. She uses apple cider, rosemary, garlic, and oranges. Let the bird sit in the brine for 24 hours and then rinse and store in the refrigerator.
Step 3: Prepare Your Turkey for Roasting
There’s something about butter that makes everything taste more delicious. Rub the outside with butter, and pack nubs of it under the skin. Resist the temptation to salt it, as the brine would have done this already. Instead, feel free to rub salt free seasoning over the skin. Pack the inside of the turkey with aromatics- delicious things that you’ll throw out when the turkey is cooked. Try this recipe for the aromatics: One chopped orange with peel. 2 cinnamon sticks, 4 sprigs of rosemary, 10 sage leaves, 1 chopped onion. Cook them together in a pot with some butter and a cup of water for 5 minutes. Pack it inside the turkey. Tuck the turkey wings behind its back and make sure all feathers are off the skin.
Step 4: Roast Your Turkey
We like Alton Brown’s roasting method found here. Roast the turkey at 500 degrees for 30 minutes then reduce to 350 degrees for 2ish hours. Use a thermometer for accuracy.
Step 5: Rest The Turkey
Let the cooked turkey rest under a foil tent for 15 minutes. Use this time to make your gravy and finish up the other dishes. The pan drippings from your brined bird might be too salty, so check for seasonings.
Step 6: EAT!