Brining a turkey will help it retain moisture. Brining is soaking the uncooked turkey in a solution of salt water or water infused with other flavorings. I am going to give you my way of brining a turkey, which also works with chicken prior to its roasting or evening grilling.
Here’s the whole process. Putting this down here will help you gather the ingredients this week, so the easy process will come together quickly for you next week.
If you are using a frozen turkey, thaw it in the refrigerator for 3 days. I usually sanitize the kitchen sink by scrubbing it with detergent and a scouring pad. Rinse the turkey well under cold water, removing the packets in both cavities. Of course if you are using a fresh turkey (great sources for fresh, local turkeys exist. Check with your local farmers’ market), you won’t need to thaw it. In Louisville, Earth’s Promise Farms can outfit you with a great local turkey. You can reserve the giblets and neck for making stock or gravy.
Make a brine for the turkey by bringing 12 cups water, 3 cups kosher salt, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup black pepper to a boil. Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Turn off the heat, and add in 3 to 4 Tbls loose tea and steep for 30 minutes (put the tea in a tea bag to keep the brine a bit more tidy). Add an equal amount of ice to the brine to reduce the temperature to less than 40 degrees. Never put a turkey in a warm brine!
Place the brine and turkey in a cooler large enough to accomodate both. (You’ll want to sanitize the cooler too.) Add more ice to keep the temperature of the brine below 40 degrees. Brine for 8-24 hours. Drain the bird and discard the brine. You’ll want to sanitize the sink and the cooler again after the brine is disposed of.
When ready to roast the turkey, quarter a large apple, a large onion and cut 3 or 4 ribs of celery into 3-4″ lengths. Stuff these items into the large cavity of the bird with a handful of fresh herbs such as thyme, sage and rosemary. Pat the exterior of the turkey dry with paper towels and rub the outside of the bird with butter or olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
I like to place the bird into a Reynolds cooking bag for turkeys. You’ll need to dust the inside of the bag with a few tablespoons of flour. Place the turkey in the bag, seal and place in a roasting pan. If you don’t want to use the bag, just roast the turkey in a covered roasting pan. I have experimented with roasting the turkey breast side down for the first half of the designated time, then flipping it over (two people are needed for large birds) and continuing until the bird is a lovely golden brown. Gravity will keep the juices flowing into the white meat, further aiding the moisture retention.
I roast turkeys at 350 and test the meat in a number of places to assure that the meat is thoroughly cooked. Check the time charts on the package the turkey comes in. You’ll want a completed temperature to read between 165 and 170. Remember that the turkey will continue to cook even after it’s out of the oven. Shoot for 160 – 165 internal temp as the time to remove the bird from the oven. Once out of the oven, allow to rest for 20 – 30 minutes prior to carving.
There are three tests for doneness: time (roasting time according to the weight of the bird), temperature (an instant read thermometer is needed) and color (juices should run clear when pierced with a fork). If the juices are tinged with pink, the turkey is not done. The joints of the bird should also move freely.
Got a dry bird? Learn to make stellar gravy! Coming up next.