11 December, 2014
Weigh To Go! No Fail Turkey
The Turkey should be the star of the table at the holidays but often its dry and flavorless despite lots of work and hours of stress. We have done all the research and testing for you and have come up with a great tasting and easy way to serve a delicious bird at your holiday gathering.
We have decided that a dry brine, basically a seasoned salt rub, is the way to go. It is a one step seasoning that needs to be done a day or two ahead but you can do this while your bird is defrosting (see info at the end of article on defrosting a turkey). Then make sure you bring the bird up to room temperature, about 1-1.5 hours before putting it in the oven. This step helps the bird cook faster and more evenly preventing some of the drying out of the white meat that often occurs. The dry brine also protects the meat giving you a little insurance that your turkey will stay moist.
Our other tips to not overcook the meat; don’t stuff your bird and don’t tie up your bird. We know you love the stuffing inside the bird! To give you the same flavor use turkey stock to moisten your stuffing and buy extra turkey wings when you get your turkey and lay them right on top of your pan of stuffing. The drippings from the wings will flavor your stuffing and you will not have to dry out your turkey in the process.
The other tip we have is to not cook a really large turkey, it tends to dry out. If you need to feed a lot of people it is better to get two smaller birds – 2, 13 pound turkeys over a 25 pound turkey. Plus its a lot easier to move it around your kitchen! Just plan ahead and make sure you have a large roasting pan to hold both birds or two pans and that they will both fit in your oven!
Prepare your salt rub:
1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound of turkey (watching your salt intake? use half)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp freshly grated orange peel (lemon would be great too)
1/2 tsp fresh thyme chopped or ¼ tsp dried
Mix all of the ingredients together. Prepare the turkey by removing the neck and bag with giblets and liver, reserve for another purpose. Spread the salt rub under the skin on the breast, legs and thigh, all over the skin including the back and in the cavity. You can place the bird in a large pan and cover with foil or Saran Wrap or in a 2 gallon zip lock bag that is placed on a cookie sheet or put in two bags. Thats it! Your bird is seasoned and just needs to sit, refrigerated with that rub on it for 24 hours up to 3 days. Always place uncooked meats on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator to ensure there is no cross contamination.
The night before
Uncover the turkey and let it sit in the roasting pan or on a cookie sheet overnight (6-8 hours). This helps to dry out the skin for a nice brown, crispy skin.
Cooking your turkey
Let the turkey warm up for 1-1.5 hours on the counter before cooking.
Rub the skin with canola oil – about 1 tablespoon. You don’t need to tie the bird up but we do recommend that you fold the wings under the bird to make sure they don’t burn. Place the bird breast side up in a roasting pan (see picture). Cut an orange or lemon into 4 pieces and place in the cavity of the bird along with herbs. We like thyme and sage but rosemary would also be nice. Add liquid to the bottom of the pan but not too much that it touches the bird. You can use plain water, cider, white wine or a combination. Also add a sliced onion and a sliced carrot along with some of the same herbs, thyme and sage, you placed in the cavity. While the bird is cooking monitor the liquid level and add additional water as needed. You never want the liquid to dry out. Thats it. No basting or flipping needed. If the skin is getting too dark cover it with a piece of aluminum foil.
Use the rule of thumb – 13 minutes per pound of turkey as a guide to help you determine when you should start taking the temperature of the bird. Start checking before you expect it to be done. Do not rely on the pop-up thermometer in some birds. Use an instant read thermometer and remove the bird when the temperature reaches 160 degrees in the thickest part which is the thigh (see picture). As the bird rests it will actually increase in temperature at least 5 degrees to bring your turkey to a safe 165 degrees.
Allow the turkey to rest for at least 30 minutes, an hour is fine. It will not get cold! This step is important to allow the juices to remain in the meat. Plus, this gives you time to toss any other sides in the oven and to finish cooking or warming up your other dishes. You want everything done at the same time so you can go and enjoy the meal with your guests.
Happy Holidays from Weigh To Go!
USDA recommendations for defrosting your turkey:
If your bird is frozen make sure you have enough time to thaw it out safely.
Refrigerator Thawing Times
- 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
- 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
- 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
- 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days
A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking.