Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Talking Turkey

A friend asked me to give him my 'recipe' for Roasting Turkey. Rather than type it out I figured I could make a blog post on all my turkey advice!!! I cooked my turkey this way last Christmas, and it was the most flavorful, moist turkey I've ever eaten. This instructions are from Cook's Illustrated, and they researched carefully!

What Turkey should I buy?
I prefer to cook a small turkey - about 12-14lbs, they cook more evenly.That size should be enough for 10-12 people. If you are cooking one larger or smaller than that, then don't follow these instructions.
I recommend brining the turkey before roasting it, but be warned, some turkeys you buy are 'pre-brined' (they will sometimes say 'injected with a saline solution') do not brine one of these or you will have a salt overdose.
I must confess though usually I just by a frozen Butterball Turkey that is pre-brined.

Is there anything else you suggest buying?
A sturdy roasting pan - you don't want your expensive turkey dumped on the floor because your disposable foil pan collapsed! If you must use a foil pan PUT A COOKIE SHEET UNDER IT
A V shaped roasting rack - this lifts the meat up out of its juices (preventing a soggy bottom) and allows the heat to circulate all the way around.
A meat thermometer - by far the safest way to tell if the turkey is cooked.

Defrosting the Turkey
I tend to do a slow defrost in the fridge. I average out 24 hours of defrost for every 4lbs of turkey. After it is defrosted I like to place the turkey on a metal rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and place, uncovered back in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight to air dry. IT makes the skin extra crispy.

Help it's too late to defrost? Is there something I can try?
Either go and buy a fresh turkey, or try the following:
Place the turkey, still in it's original wrapper in a bucket of cold water for approximately 10 hours (about 30 mins per pound). CHANGE THE WATER EVERY 30 MINUTES. Yes every 30 minutes you'll have to handle the huge bird while you change the water. The water change is to guard against bacteria growth. If that sounds like a chore, it is. Next time remember to start defrosting earlier or buy a fresh bird!!!

What next?
Check AT LEAST THREE TIMES that you remove the plastic bag with all the giblets in it (you can keep them to help make gravy if you so desire). Everyone has heard horror stories of turkey's roasted with the bag still in them. Don't become the butt of humor for your family for every holiday for eternity. REMOVE THE BAG - some turkeys come with the giblets in 2 BAGS rather than one...TRIPLE CHECK!!!!!

How do I brine the turkey? (only if not already brined)
Dissolve 2 cups of table salt in 2 gallons of cold water in a large bucket or stock pot. Add the turkey and refrigerate or set in a cold spot for 4 hours. DO NOT SUBSTITUTE KOSHER SALT FOR TABLE SALT, IT DISSOLVES AT A DIFFERENT RATE.
Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey on a metal rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and place, uncovered in the fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight to air dry.

How do I cook this mighty bird?
1. Put the oven rack in the lowest position and pre-heat the oven to 400F.
2. Put a coarsely chopped onion, 1/2 medium chopped carrot and 1/2 celery rib in the turkey cavity with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
3. Use a piece of kitchen twine to tie the legs together at the ankles and then truss the bird.

4. Brush the breast of the turkey with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and then place the turkey BREAST SIDE DOWN in the V - rack sitting in the roasting tray. Brush the back of the turkey with another tablespoon of melted butter. Put 1 cup of water into the bottom of the roasting pan and some 2 chopped onions, 2 ribs of celery and some chopped carrots if you so desire.
5. Roast the turkey breast side down for 45 minutes.
6. Remove the turkey from the oven. Baste with the juices from the pan. Then, CAREFULLY, using using either pot holders or wadded paper towels, rotate the bird 90 degrees until one leg/thigh is uppermost. If the roasting pan has run out of water add another 1/2 cup.
7. Return the turkey to the oven for 15 minutes.
8. Remove the turkey, baste it again and then rotate it until the other leg/thigh is uppermost (that's a 180 degree rotation for you math geeks).
9. Return the turkey to the oven for 15 minutes.
10. Remove the turkey from the oven one last time, baste, and the turn it breast side up.
11. Return it to the oven and roast until the breast registers 165 degrees and the thigh registers 170-175 degrees. This will take about 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your bird.
12. Remove the turkey from the oven, cover it with foil and let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.

Is all this rotating really necessary?
Trust me (and Cook's Illustrated on this). The main fat deposits on a turkey are on its back. So buy roasting it upside down the fat runs through the meat keeping it moist rather than dripping straight into the roasting pan.

Why do you not stuff the turkey?
Stuffing a turkey changes it's density. It slows the interior cooking (lowering the temperature in the cavity by nearly 30 degrees). Stuffing means longer cooking times which can translate to bone-dry surface meat. You also have to be certain the stuffing cooks all the way through. Do yourself a favor and cook the stuffing separately!

Yes it can be done!
From Christmas 2007


Jerry said...

Thanksgiving comes in October here in Canada, so Thursday will just be a regular work day for me.

But I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving... and a delicious turkey dinner!

Kim said...

Let's talk TOFURKY! http://www.tofurky.com/products/tofurkyfeasts.htm

tg said...

Now I am excited to plan a turkey dinner party. I think I'll make it a game night, too. Thanks Peter!