Well, my early Thanksgiving dinner was a success and now I am sitting here very full. So, here is the barrage of recipes for what I just prepared the last 2 days (my Thanksgiving cooking is never a short story, rather a lengthy delight in the kitchen). First, you have to have turkey for Thanksgiving, nothing else will do (at least to me nothing else will do).
I started with a 16 lb turkey and brined it yesterday morning until about 1:30 this afternoon, turning it only once and letting it soak. When you let it soak in the brine, it retains more moisture so that when it is cooking, the breast will not turn out dry. This one was no exception, it was very moist when we carved it tonight. It oozed with juice all over the place. While it was cooking, it formed blisters of liquid beneath the skin and that is what you want with a brined turkey. That way when it comes out of the oven, and you have to let it rest for 30-40 minutes before carving, the meat soaks up the juice and thus... no dry turkey.
Here is how cook it:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. You want to figure 15 minutes for every pound of turkey, and then at the end add 30-45 minutes for a stuffed turkey. So, my 16 lb turkey took almost 6 hours to roast.
Take the turkey out of the brine and rinse it under cold water (this rinses off alot of the salt and makes it not so salty, this also helps when you make the gravy at the end. Nothing kills gravy than it being too salty). Pat it dry with paper towels and smather butter all over it, make it look totally covered with butter. Sprinkle a little pepper over the butter. The plus side of the butter is that when it melts, it goes into the stuffing that is in the body cavity, into the meat itself, and makes a richer gravy with the drippings with butter in it.
Stuff the bird loosely with the stuffing; in our case, I made a Apple Cranberry Pecan Stuffing which is another post altogether coming up soon. Make the stuffing loose so the heat circulates within the body cavity and the stuffing. Stuff the bird too tight, and the inner cavity does not cook and that is when you dig into it, the breast will not be cooked all the way through.
Get some foil and make a tent over the turkey but do not let the foil touch the top of the bird. You want to tent it so that it does not brown to quickly and it retains the heat and distributes it evenly so it cooks nice in the oven.
Baste at intervals of after the first hour and a half, then after the second hour and a half, then an hour later, than every half hour after that. Basting helps not to dry out the top of the turkey and it prevents the skin from becoming too leathery. I like to eat the skin, so I want it moist as well as tasty. Add liquid if it evaporates in the pan, you can add chicken broth or water. I added a mix of chicken broth and apple juice once during cooking so there is juice in the bottom for gravy later.
Remove the tent in the last hour of cooking so the top gets brown.
Remove the turkey when a meat thermometer inserted between the thigh and breast reaches 170 degrees. Allow to rest for 30-40 minutes before carving. The temperature still rises while it is sitting there, so do not carve it before the resting period is over. This also allows the meat to soak up any other juice to retain moisture within the meat.
One of my favorite tips: I cut a thin slit in the skin for wing tips. Near the wing tip cut a slit of the skin (be careful not to slice into the meat) and insert the wing tips inside so they do not become too crunchy. I like the wings but detest crunchy wing tips which is why I do it. It is not necessary but makes the wings stay nice and moist without being overcooked.
One more tip: IF you get a frozen turkey, leave the metal piece where the legs are tied until after you carve and clean the carcass, this is built in trussing where you do not need a turkey lacer and string, just tuck the legs back into the metal piece after stuffing and keep the cavity somewhat closed while cooking.
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