Roasting a turkey for the holidays seems to be a point of confusion for many people. How do you keep it from drying out? How long do you cook it? What temperature? What about stuffing? For some reason, cooking a turkey for the holidays tends to be more stressful than anything else when it can literally be the easiest part of the big dinner. Hopefully this post will help to shed light on making the best possible turkey to really steal the show.
Step 1; Buy a good quality turkey.
Purchase a good quality turkey that ideally hasn’t been previously frozen, not because fresh is necessarily better quality, but it gets rid of the hassle of having to thaw it. Supporting your local farmer would be best, but if unable and you have to go to the market, take some time to see what’s available and don’t just buy the cheapest one you find. In looking at the packaging, try to find one that does not contain the standard 3% extra retained water/ fluid from injected flavoring or broth. I personally don’t feel that they come out as well.
Step 2; Brine. –Essential!
Thaw over the course of a day or two (if frozen), and then submerge in a flavorful brine for 8-12 hours and refrigerate. Click here for a great brine recipe!
Step 3; Temper and dry.
After 8-12 hours in the brine, remove, pat dry, and let sit out on the counter at room temperature for about 90 minutes so that the turkey approaches room temperature.
Step 4; Cook.
Set the oven to 500 degrees. Tie the ends of the legs together with butchers string, and fold the tips of the wings back behind the turkey. Using a shallow roasting pan, set the turkey preferably on a roasting rack inside the pan to allow the heat to circulate under the bird. Once the oven has reached 500 degrees, put the turkey in. If not using a convection oven, be sure to turn the turkey around every half hour or so. After 30 minutes, drop the oven temperature down to 450 degrees. Depending on the size of the bird, cooking should only take 90 minutes to two hours. Using a meat thermometer, insert probe between the breast and the thigh aiming for the thickest point of the thigh, close to the bone. Remove from oven when the internal temperature reads 155 degrees. Once out of the oven, let rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. During this time, the internal temperature will carryover to at least 165 degrees.
I know what you’re thinking; “What about the stuffing?!”
I prefer to make a dressing rather than a stuffing mostly because the stuffing will increase the cooking time, and create a lot of extra moisture in the oven in a case where we prefer dry heat. Dressing is the same thing as stuffing, just that it’s not cooked inside of the bird.
“But, that’s where all the flavor comes from!”
Sure, you may lose a little bit of turkey flavor in your stuffing but you should be including the turkey giblets, trimmings and such in your dressing anyway. Remember, the dressing is to compliment the turkey, so do an awesome job on the turkey!