Roasting a turkey can be a pretty big deal. For most of us, the entire Thanksgiving meal is centered around the turkey. Here are some tips to make sure yours comes out juicy and delicious.
1. Find a fresh turkey (if possible)
After I watched Food Inc.a few years ago, I became a lot more conscious of the meat that I buy and that is something I’m really passionate about now. Industrial meat production makes me sad. Did you know poultry is given growth hormones that make them grow so fast, their bones can’t even support them. Those poor chickens can’t even stand up! That kind of treatment is just cruel, and that is the main reason we buy local meat from someone we trust.
For the past couple years the hubby and I have gotten a fresh, locally raised turkey from a farmer. And I mean really fresh…they butchered it that same day! The first time I got one that was the closest I have ever been to my meat before, and I could definitely tell it was fresh. Preparing and cooking the turkey that day gave me a lot more respect for the animals we eat. We don’t waste a single bit of it either. The carcass and scraps make a really nice turkey stock that can be used for a leftover turkey soup, or in place of anything you would use chicken stock for.
Here is a recipe for homemade stock.
To find a farmer in your area, check out Local Harvest. You can search by zipcode and see what is available.
Brining is the key to a moist and flavorful roasted turkey. There are many different things you can do with brine, but the basics are salt and water. A quick google search will bring up a lot of different add-ins for different flavors. Last year I used one with apple cider and it turned out really well. If your turkey is big, you can brine it in a clean cooler or a brining bag. Otherwise, a 5 gallon bucket will also work. I normally brine the turkey for about 24 hours. If you brine the turkey, you don’t need to season it with salt.
3. Butter under skin
Putting butter under the skin really boosts the flavor of the turkey. Carefully separate the skin from the meat with your fingers, being careful not to tear the skin. Then rub softened butter under the skin. Be generous, I use an entire stick!
Put some turkey stock in the bottom of the roasting pan, replacing it as needed. This will create a steamy oven and help keep the turkey moist. Baste the turkey with the stock whenever you feel like it, I normally only baste it a couple times because I don’t like to open the oven too much. You can also use chicken stock if you don’t have turkey.
4. Breast down, then flip
White meat cooks faster than dark meat. If you start the bird breast side down, then flip it about 3/4 of the way through, the breast will be nice and moist. Cooking it like that allows all the fat from the bird to drip down onto the breast while cooking, so the breast doesn’t get dried out like it is known to do. Once you flip it, the breast will have enough time to get that pretty brown color and crispy skin.
As recommended by the USDA, turkey should be roasted in the oven at a minimum of 325 degrees F and is done when the temperature reaches 165 degrees F. The temperature will continue to rise after you take the turkey out, especially if you have a large turkey. There is some controversy about what temperature to take the turkey out of the oven. Last year I took it out just under 150 degrees and let it rest. By the time we carved it, it was fully cooked. I have seen some people take it out much sooner and also much later. Some people even say 135 degrees, and some people swear by 180. I think it is all on personal preference and what you are comfortable with.
Let the turkey rest for about 30 minutes with an aluminum foil tent covering it. This helps it retain it’s juices when it is carved. This is a good time to make the gravy, and put casseroles or whatever sides you are making in the oven. I normally prep sides ahead of time and have them ready to put in the oven while the turkey is resting, then everything is ready at the same time.
Any tips that I missed? Let me know how you make your turkey in the comments. Any turkey fryers out there that want to chime in with some tips of your own?