How to cook the perfect turkey

How to cook the perfect turkey

Chef Lenny de-mystifies the steps required to ensure a moist, delicious and properly cooked turkey. Although turkey is most commonly associated with Thanksgiving, it is a treat for a special Sunday dinner any time of year.

Chef Lenny Turkey dinner

Wine Selection for a feast

Before Lenny Redé helped open Wine World & Spirits, he was a chef instructor at the Cordon Bleu Institute. Here are his suggestions and recipe for a perfectly cooked turkey. This is not a fast food recipe, this is a Slow Food preparation that is well worth the wait. Pair the turkey with your favorite bubbles, white, pink or red wine.


1 frozen young bird (14 to 16 pounds) If you need more turkey to serve a crowd get two smaller turkeys. Don’t try to cook an over-sized bird, it is almost impossible to cook it all the way through with out drying out the turkey breast.

For the Brine (the key to success):

1 cup          kosher salt
1 cup          brown sugar (dark or light)
2 cups         wild flower honey (local of course!)
1 gallon      vegetable or chicken stock
1 TBS         black peppercorns
1 tsp           allspice berries
1 Tbl                    fresh ginger, roughly chopped (no need to peel)
3 ea             cinnamon sticks
2 ea             lemons, quartered
2 ea             limes quartered
5 ea             garlic cloves, crushed
1 gallon of ice


1 ea             apple (red apples work great), cut into 6 wedges
1 ea             red onion, roughly sliced
1 ea             cinnamon stick
1/4 ea        pineapple, roughly cut
1 ea             lemon, halved
1 ea             lime, halved
4 ea             sprigs of rosemary
6 ea             leaves sage
5 each         garlic cloves, crushed

Canola Oil as needed

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock


1- First thing we need to do is defrost Mr. Tom the Turkey. This will take 3 to 4 days. Give it enough time to thaw out. If it is frozen at all, this will not work. So please, make sure you start to thaw out 3 to 4 days in advance! This can be done in the cooler with a pan underneath it to catch any of the thawed liquid. For heaven’s sake….. Do NOT thaw on the counter!!!

2- Lets make the brine! Combine all of the brining ingredients in a pot with the exception of the ice. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally to dissolve. Boil for about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and place on the counter. Cover for about 25 minutes to let steep. Uncover after 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Add the ice after it has cooled down a little. At this point, it should be cold.

3- Place the bird breast side down (innards removed) in a clean (make sure it is clean) 5 gallon bucket. Pour the brine over the bird. Make sure the brine covers the whole bird. If you need to weight it down, do so. Wrap up tightly and place in the cooler. Brine for 2 days.

4- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

5- Remove the bird from the brine. Do this over the sink so you do not make a big mess (I learned the hard way). Rinse the bird with cold water. Discard the brine.

Chef Lenny turkey breast

Chef Lenny with turkey breast on a natural rack of vegetables

6- Place the bird on a rack, breast side up. You can use a metal rack or you can make your own natural rack with chopped onions, celery, and carrots. Just make sure we cut the pieces big. I like the natural rack idea because I love to eat the vegetables! Pat the turkey dry so there is no excess moisture on the outside of the bird.

7- For the aromatics, take the apple, onion, cinnamon, garlic, and the first listed water and place in a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 3-4 minutes. Take out and add the rest of the aromatics (not the oil or second listed stock)

8- Add all the aromatics into the cavity of the Mr. Tom Turkey.

9- Tuck the wings underneath the bird. Coat the bird with canola oil. Use your hands or a brush. Make sure you get all over the bird.

10- Place the turkey on the lower level of the oven. Roast at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. During that time, you will need to make a foil bra for the breasts. Take a piece of square foil and fold it in half to make a triangle. After the 30 minutes, place the bra over the breast part of the turkey. The bra protects to breasts from over cooking. Reduce the oven temperature 30o°

12- Roast Mr. Tom Turkey until it reaches 155 to 160. To check the temperature, place a probe in the thickest part of the breast. this will take 7-10 minutes per pound

13-When done, take Mr. Tom out and place on the counter. Tent loosely with foil and let rest 10-20 minutes.

Chef Lenny turkey gravy

Roast turkey breast with gravy

14- While the turkey rests, make the gravy from the roasting pan drippings.