Secrets to a Perfect Roast Turkey

November 25, 2010

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Roast Turkey

I’m addicted.. Not to eating turkey but baking it. You must think I’m nuts since baking the turkey is the number one concern during Thanksgiving time. This was my first turkey. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to have the opportunity to bake one. And I didn’t just bake one, I baked two! All before Thanksgiving Day. The first turkey was for a student organization at the University of Texas at Austin and the second turkey was for a potluck with close friends. I combined two recipes from two of my favorite Food Network chefs, Alton Brown and Ina Garten. The brine by Alton Brown is a must. And the longer the better. I brined the first turkey for 12 hours and the second turkey for 28 hours. Both yielded tender and juicy meat. Of the course the second one was even more juicy. And for the flavor? Ina Garten’s herb roasted rub recipe.

Secrets to a Perfect Roast Turkey

Brined turkey

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 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

  • 2 to 3 days before roasting:
  • Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
  • Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger 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.

For the aromatics
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. 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.

Turkey Tip #1: Remember to remove the bag of giblets from the inside of the turkey. And the bag is located in the neck cavity not the rear end.

Turkey Tip #2: Make sure that the bird is cold during the brining stage. You don’t want a spoiled turkey. I brined mine in a cooler and added bags of ice. Don’t put the ice directly into the brine or else the brine will be watered down.

Turkey Tip #3: Wash off the brine. If you don’t, the turkey will be too salty. Especially if you add the herb mixture.

Ina Garten’s Herb Roast Rub.

1 tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp good olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup dry white wine

  • In a bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, & lemon juice to make a paste.
  • Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers & smear half of the paste directly on the meat.
  • Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Turkey Tip #4: How to get that gorgeous golden color? Follow Alton Brown’s instructions on baking at 500F for 30 mins and then 2 hours at 350F.

Turkey Tip #5: Use a turkey triangle. AKA a piece of foil folded into the shape of a triangle to cover up the breast of the turkey during roasting.

Turkey Tip #6: Keep the oven close. No matter how badly you want to check if it’s burnt or golden DO NOT open that oven until the 2 hour mark. And keep an eye out for poachers.

Turkey Tip #7: After taking the bird out from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Tell me about your Thanksgiving dinner. The good and the bad!

A Taste of Koko’s Thanksgiving 2010
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Jane Ko is the Austin blogger behind A Taste of Koko, Austin's top food and travel blog featuring the hottest restaurants and weekend getaways. Jane has been a speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW), Texas Conference for Women, BlogHer, and more on entrepreneurship and social media. She lives in Austin Texas with her dog and cat.