Cooking a Thanksgiving turkey seems to be a daunting task for many people – it’s either too dry, under seasoned, or the worst scenario: under cooked. I’ve been making the turkey for my holiday meal for around 10 years now and I’ve learned quite a bit about preparing a perfect, juicy, and flavorful bird. With a little planning and key information, you too can make a great Thanksgiving turkey!
Frozen turkeys are widely available and very affordable, but I prefer to purchase a fresh bird from my local butcher. I find that the flavor is superb to a frozen turkey, and you get a juicer product. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with frozen turkeys, but Thanksgiving only comes once a year, so I think it’s worth the extra cost to go with fresh. If you choose a frozen turkey, make sure you allot 2-3 days for proper thawing – you don’t want to wake up Thanksgiving morning to realize you never thawed your turkey!
Once you chose your turkey, you’ll want to decide if you would like to brine it or not. I highly recommend brining, which is soaking the turkey in a salt solution to impart flavor and juiciness. There are mixed feelings on brining, some feel it doesn’t do much and others swear by it – I have found that it really does make a difference. My favorite brine recipe is by Alton Brown – it’s a few extra steps, but totally worth it!
I like to rub the skin of the turkey with olive oil and an herb paste; it gives the turkey a beautiful appearance and a great flavor. In order to get perfectly brown and crispy skin you’ll want to roast the turkey at 500º for 30 minutes and then reduce the oven to 325º for the remainder of the time. Crisping the skin in beginning and then reducing the temperature allows the meat to cook more evenly and stay moist. If you try and crisp at the end, you risk drying out the breast meat.
When the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 160º you want to take it out and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. The meat will continue to cook and reach the desirable temperature of 165º – this is the key to a juicy bird! While the turkey rests is the perfect time to make the gravy. I always designate one person to carve the bird while I get everything else to the table.
Hopefully these tips will help you to prepare a perfect turkey this Thanksgiving. If you do end up with a dry bird don’t worry – pour a little chicken broth over the meat and no one will ever know!!
WIll you be making your Thanksgiving turkey? Do you have any thoughts on the best way to cook a turkey?
Herb Roasted Turkey and Gravy
Add the perfect juicy roasted turkey to your Thanksgiving table! This one is seasoned well and served with a delicious gravy – simple perfection!
| Serves: 8-10 (with lots of leftovers) | Prep Time: 15 Min | Cook Time: 3 Hrs |
1 (15 lb) Turkey, giblets & neck removed, rinsed, and patted dry
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Assorted Fresh Herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage), finely chopped
2 Lemons, zested & juiced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Butter
1/3 Cup Flour
Preheat oven to 500º. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan with removable rack. In a small bowl combine the salt, pepper, herbs, lemon zest, and juice; mix well. Drizzle the turkey liberally with olive oil and rub herb paste all over turkey, making sure to distribute evenly. Place the turkey in the oven and allow to roast at 500º to crisp the skin; after 30 min. reduce the oven temperature to 325º and add enough chicken broth to coat the bottom of the pan. Continue to roast for about 2 ½ hours, or until a meat thermometer reads 160º. Allow the turkey to rest for 20 minutes while you make the gravy.
Strain the pan drippings through a fine mesh strainer and allow to rest for a minute so the fat rises to the top. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and whisk in flour to make a roux, cook 1 minute. Spoon off as much as possible from the drippings and add enough chicken broth to yield 3 cups of liquid. Whisk the drippings into the roux and bring to a simmer until thick. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy.