My way of cooking a domestic turkey is loosely borrowed from Alton Brown of Food TV’s “Good Eats”. The key is the brining process. Brining adds flavor and moisture, both good things when it comes to turkey, Another important element is roasting the bird breast side down. Don’t place the turkey in a rack. Just cut some wedges from an apple and an onion and use them to keep the bird from falling over while cooking. It’ll also add flavor to the pan drippings.
I use a 5 gallon bucket to brine a turkey. You can use a small cooler or any large non-reactive container. While brining, keep the water cold with a zipper lock bag full of ice cubes, cold packs (in zipper lock bags also) or a frozen bottle of water. Don’t add additional ice to the brine or it will dilute the solution. You may also additional flavors to the brine – allspice, Italian seasoning, etc. How many gallons of water you need will depend on the size of the turkey. Make certain that the whole bird is in the brine.
I’m not a turkey stuffer. Stuffing a bird increases the cooking time and encourages overcooking. Stuffing keeps the heat from getting to the inside of the breast. Very often, by the time the inside is finally done, the outside of the breast is overcooked.
Thanksgiving Turkey (domestic)
For every gallon of water used to submerge turkey, add:
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 T garlic powder
- 3 T onion powder
- 1 quart ice
- Heat 2 – 3 cups of the water in a saucepan. Add salt, sugar and seasonings and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool and add to the rest of the water. Add ice. Place turkey, breast side down, in brine. Keep cold for 6 – 8 hours.
- Remove bird from brine, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Rub with vegetable or canola oil. Place turkey breast side up in a roasting pan (see info above).
- Place pan in a 500 degree oven for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and flip bird over on to the breast. You’re going to cook it breast side down. All of the juices will go to the breast and that’s good. Cover with foil. Roast until internal temperature at the thickest part of the breast is 160 degrees. If desired, flip the bird over for the last 20 – 30 minutes to crisp up the skin.
- Let the bird rest for 20 minutes before carving. It’s been through hell, literally. Place the turkey on a carving surface and, starting at the breastbone, remove both sides of the breast completely. Don’t slice while on the body. Carve along the breastbone and remove the whole breast on each side. Then carve on the cutting board and arrange on a platter. Carve leg and thigh meat and add to platter.
- Save the carcass and use to make the best soup ever!