It's that time when we get to cook perhaps the most anticipated dinner of the year, and there is no substitute for a juicy, flavorful turkey that takes center stage! A combination of a good quality bird and proper cooking technique will guarantee the best turkey you'll ever have.
Selecting your Turkey:
Fresh Turkeys are easy to find during the holidays and taste much better than their frozen counterparts which will have drier meats. If possible a free-range turkey organic feed will be top choice however don't stress out they are quite pricey, these other options will turn out great too.
Fresh: Not frozen and not injected with the saline solution which although it acts a preservative it tends to draw out moisture from your bird and it is easier to get a drier breast with frozen turkeys.
Frozen: Economically is the best option, you may sacrifice some flavor but with a good prepping and cooking technique you can also get a good result.
For best results buy a turkey that weighs at least 10 pounds or more. Small turkeys lack in flavor and their meat does not absorb as much flavor from seasoning. If you have a smaller crowd a turkey breast is a better option. Calculate 3/4 lb to 1 pound of turkey per person.
Storing your Turkey:
If fresh, plan to pick up your turkey 2 days before the party and place it in your refrigerator. For frozen Turkeys allow thaw out in the refrigerator it may take 2-4 days to thaw it out. Figure 3-4 hours per pound of turkey so if turkey is 16 lbs you need to thaw it out for about 2 1/2- 3 days.
I have tried so many ways to flavor turkeys and my best way to do it is to brine the turkey. Brining is a combination of a liquid with salt, sugar, aromatics and spices that flavors meats specially pork and poultry. A brine penetrates each meat cell, making the meat juicier while infusing flavor. You'll never have to worry about serving dried-out holiday bird again.
To Brine or not to Brine:
If you bought an organic, free range and free of antibiotics bird you can skip the brine because the texture of the bird is generally better. But if you want a juicier Turkey Brining is the way to go!
If you decide to Brine here is a great recipe you can use.
Buttermilk Brine Turkey
1 cup of salt½ cup of sugar
4 cups of water
4 quarts buttermilk (1 gallon)
1 fresh turkey, 16 to 18 lb., neck, heart and gizzard removed (reserved,
3 bay leaves
1 orange sliced in rounds
2 sprigs of thyme or rosemary
5-6 sage leaves
Brining Bags(Can be found at Williams-Sonoma (my favorite), or your grocery store)
If you can't have buttermilk for any reasons substitute the gallon of buttermilk with a gallon of water or more apple cider.
In a small saucepan over high heat, combine water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, until the brine dissolves, 5 to 8 minutes. Let the brine mixture cool to room temperature. In a large pot, stir together the brine mixture and buttermilk. Make sure your brine solution is at room temperature or colder because you will cook your bird....no good.
Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and place in a large brining bag remember to remove giblets. Carefully pour the buttermilk brine mixture into the bag. Seal the bag, pressing out the air, and place in a large stockpot or other container large enough to hold the turkey. Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours, turning occasionally.
Remove the turkey from the brine; discard the brine. Lightly Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, breast side up, legs toward the back of the oven (the oven is hotter on the back and the legs take longer to cook) on a rack in a large roasting pan. Truss the turkey as desired using kitchen twine. Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 1 to 1.5 hours. Bringing your Turkey to room temperature allows for even cooking and better texture. Before roasting add butter mixed with a herb like sage, thyme or rosemary or brush with our Mojo Marinade see recipe below. If you have brined your turkey omit salt on the recipe.
Place your buttered turkey breast side down at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, flip your turkey breast side up and lower temperature to 325 baste your turkey with pan juices every 45 minutes. At about 2 hours of roasting check your temperatures it should read 165 on the thickest part of the breast or 175 degrees on the thickest part of the thigh. Total roasting time should be about 3-4 hours. ***If breast is cooking too fast cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Let your turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving. Enjoy it!!!!
Mojo Marinated Turkey
1 jar of White Mojo
Juice of 2 Lemons
Juice of 1 Orange
½ cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon of Salt
1 tablespoons of smoked Paprika
1 Tablespoon of Herbs de Provence
1 Tablespoon of Pink Peppercorns or Black Pepper
3 tablespoons of Melted Butter or Ghee
Make sure you bring the Turkey to room temperature about 1 hour.
Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and brush it on the Turkey.