The holidays are coming. Can you even believe it? In just over two weeks we will be celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday and then Christmas. Is it just me, or do the holidays come fast for you too? I’m pretty excited for them. I get excited every year, but I’m super excited to share my baby girl’s first holiday season with her this year. We’re going to have fun!
We’re also going to eat well. Turkey seems to be the main protein choice at most holiday events. Considering that turkey is an excellent lean protein, I am happy that this is the case. Now, we just need a good recipe and cooking method to ensure we get the perfect meat.
Look no further folks because I found it for you! I seriously have not had better turkey meat in all of my life . . . well, at least that I can remember! This recipe and cooking method turns out the most flavorful and moist meat you’ll ever have. (Is there nothing worse than dry and bland turkey meat!?)
It all starts with the brining. I know it requires a tad bit more effort (and really, it’s just a tad), but it is SOOOOOO worth it! The brine not only allows for a VERY moist turkey, but it also helps to infuse flavor into the meat. This replaces any need to baste your turkey (which really doesn’t add flavor to the meat . . . only to the skin AND by opening your oven several times during roasting to baste just dries out your meat). If you’re interested in the science of how/why this is so, you can watch a little video here. It explains the science of brining and Alton then shows how he prepares his brine.
Once the turkey has set in the brine overnight, then all you do is rinse the turkey, pat it dry, rub it with some canola oil, add some simple aromatics to the cavity of the bird and roast it! As crazy as it sounds, you actually don’t roast it in a roasting pan (or in a turkey bag). You’ll put it on a roasting rack placed in/on a half sheet (jelly roll) pan. This allows for an evenly roasted turkey. You’ll start with a high temperature (to brown and crisp the skin) and then you’ll reduce the temperature for the remaining roasting time.
I know the videos can be helpful, especially if you’re attempting a roasted turkey for the first time in your life. Warning: The videos are a little old, but the science and method are still VERY current.
Now, start planning your holiday dinners and be SURE to include this roasted turkey. You will NOT be sorry! And, can I ask a small favor? Do you mind bringing me your leftovers?
The Perfect Roast Turkey
Adapted from Alton Brown/Food Network Magazine
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 gallon heavily iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F. (I usually put my frozen turkey in a sink full of cold water, keeping the turkey submerged, for several hours to start the thawing. I then transfer it to the refrigerator to allow it to thaw completely.)
Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, and peppercorns in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining. (I just put a lid on my bucket and placed it on my back porch over night. The ice water kept it cold enough and the following day there was still a lot of ice indicating that the turkey was still nice and cold.)
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels. (I used an oven/heat-safe cooling rack inside a jelly roll pan and it worked like a charm!)
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes (there may be some smoke created towards the end of this 30 minutes, but do not fear). Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. If needed/desired, cover the breast section with foil to ensure that it doesn’t brown too much and so you get perfect roasting between dark meat and breast meat (I followed Alton Brown’s suggestion in the video to fit a piece of foil to the bird before I put it in the oven so that all I had to do was set the foil on the bird at this point.) Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.
Serves a lot!
Nutritional Information (Per Serving = 3 ounces Breast Meat)
Fat: 2.3g (0g = Sat.)