I have only cooked a few turkeys in a life. Recently I tried a new recipe, and it failed me. I went back to tradition and made a roast turkey the same way I have in the past. What is that saying? If you have a great recipe, don’t change it. Which was the case with this roast turkey.
I feel, and this is a strong opinion that the type of turkey you use makes the meal. I guess you could say I am what I eat, and I prefer to be a bit on the natural side. I opt for an all natural and sustainable turkey that has been fed a vegetarian diet and has not been pumped up with growth enhancers or hormones. Can you taste the difference? Definitely! The bird is juicy, flavorful and takes like the wild instead of a cardboard box.
I use what is called a dry brine when preparing my turkey. It is a mixture of kosher salt and fresh herbs and no liquid. I really use whatever I have on hand or what will go with the theme of the dinner; this time around I used rosemary. I love the taste and aroma of fresh rosemary, lemon, onions, and poultry filling the house. Smells like comfort. I simply give my turkey a rub-down the night before, and then let it hang out in the refrigerator overnight with no cover. This dries out the skin a bit which in turn helps lock the moisture in.
Now, I am the queen of the best gravy in our house and have been making it since I could stand at the counter and whisk. Over the years, it has improved and been improvised but still, it is outstanding, and everyone asks me to make it. What is my secret? I add lots of stock and wine to the bottom of the roasting pan along with a handful of fresh herbs. And sometimes a little lemon zest for fun. As the bird roasts and releases it’s natural juices it mingles with the stock mixture and creates heaven.
Basting … toss out that mangy basting ball that you use but once a year. You know the one collecting dust bunnies and bacteria in the back of a kitchen drawer. Use your basting brush and wipe those juices from the pan all over the turkey. And do this often. Not only will the turkey be golden brown but it will be extra moist and flavorful.
Stuffing? I don’t stuff my birds. Why? It dries them out, that delicious stuffing sucks up all of the juices and dries out the bird. Instead, I bake it in a baking dish and serve it alongside the turkey. If you are inclined to have a stuffed turkey, go ahead. That is a choice I will leave up to you.
There you have it. Not fancy. Not deep fried or brined for days. Just a simple, old-fashioned home cooked turkey, that has been a crowd pleaser for years.
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- roasting pan with rack
- butchery twine
- basting brush
- 12-pound turkey
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 large lemon, cut in half, then each half quartered
- 2 cups white wine or chicken stock
- a handful of fresh herbs – used a mixture of thyme and rosemary
The day before cooking:
- Place salt and rosemary leaves in a mortar and mash until well mixed. Or you can place on a cutting board and use a knife.
- Wash the turkey inside and out well. Pat dry.
- Rub half of the salt inside the turkey, and rub the remaining salt all over the turkey. Place the turkey into a shallow glass bowl, and place (uncovered) back into the refrigerator overnight.
The day of cooking:
- Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 60 minutes before roasting.
- Preheat the oven to 425.
- Rub the turkey with the olive oil. Stuff the inside with the onion and lemons.
- Place the turkey breast side down in the roasting pan on top of the rack and pour the wine or chicken stock underneath the turkey. Scatter the herbs in the liquid.
- Roast for 45 minutes.
- Lower the heat to 325. Flip the turkey over. Continue roasting until cooked, using a meat thermometer to test for doneness.
- Baste on and off using a basting brush and the dripping/wine/stock mixture in the bottom of the pan.
- If the turkey starts to get a bit too golden and hasn’t reached the right temperature then cover loosely with foil.
Temperatures should be:
- 170 in the breast and 180 in the thigh
- Use the following guideline for cooking a turkey:
- 10 – 12 pounds – 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours
- 12 – 14 pounds – 2 2/4 hours to 3 1/4 hours
- 14 – 16 pounds – 3 hours to 3 3/4 hours
- 16 – 18 pounds – 3 1/4 hours to 4 hours
- 18 – 20 pounds – 3 1/2 hours to 4 1/4 hours
- 20 + pounds – 3 3/4 hours t0 4 1/2 hours