- Brine your turkey!
Brine is a simple solution of water and salt. We like to add sugar and aromatics to the brine to enhance the flavor and balance out the salt. Brining is the key element to success with items (like turkey) to keep from drying out.
Brining works like this: The salt penetrates the meat and is carried into the bird via the water. The salt starts to break down the connective tissues which can make the meat tough to eat. The salt also encourages the bird to soak up the liquid. At the end, you have a bird that is pumped up with brine and will stay juicy and moist throughout the roasting process.
- Using a foil “bra” also helps.
It helps by moderating the heat from the oven that can overcook the breast easily. By tenting the breasts with the foil bra, you are allowing the heat to continue cooking the dark meat and also reflecting the majority of heat away from the breast. This is another key step to success.
- Do not stuff the bird with stuffing!
This is a mistake I see all the time. Think about it….. If you stuff the bird with stuff, the stuffing has to be cooked all the way through to at least 160 degrees. By the time the stuffing is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, the dark meat and breast meat is toast and way overcooked. Do not stuff the bird with stuffing!
- Use a dressing instead.
A dressing is the same thing as a stuffing but rather then stuffing the bird with a stuffing, you are cooking it in a casserole dish (or something like that) in the oven by itself.
- Slow and steady defrost.
Give yourself plenty of time to defrost Mr. Tom the Turkey. At least 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Do NOT defrost your turkey on the counter. If it is not totally defrosted, it is going to be hard to roast the bird!
- Everyone likes crispy skin, right?
The key to this is to make sure you sear the bird at a high degree in the oven for a short amount of time. I like 500 degrees for 30 minutes. I also like to rub the turkey with oil, neutral oil like canola or vegetable oil). This will encourage a nice browning of the skin.
- Get under the skin
Sometimes I will stuff things under the skin like fresh herbs and garlic cloves. This gives a different flavor dimension to it all.
- Keep the skin on
I like to make sure the skin stay on the bird. If you do not like eating the skin, at least leave it on while it is roasting and then take it off when the turkey is done roasting. The skin provides fat. When we apply heat to fat, the fat melts and acts as a self basting liquid.
- Use a natural rack to roast instead of a metal rack.
Is there going to be any extra flavor from that metal rack? NO! Cut up some onions, celery, and carrots (large rough cut) and place into the bottom of a roasting pan. The bird will sit on top and roast. This is a lovely concept.
- Do NOT Overcook Your Turkey!
Buy an instant read thermometer and remove the turkey from the oven between 157- 160 degrees. Let it rest covered for 20 – 30 minutes before serving.