Go ahead, Cook the TURKEY this year…You CAN DO IT with these easy steps!
I avoided this task for many years, but when my husband and I decided to stop traveling to see family on Thanksgiving (buying 4 tickets now-a-days is enough to break the bank!) and start our own traditions, I was apprehensive to say the least. The TURKEY…it’s kind of a big deal! While it may seem daunting, if you follow the steps below, you and your guests, will be impressed…not to mention, stuffed!
I remember my first attempt ever…my husband gently broke the news that he invited his entire coaching staff, ugh! I’ve done it a few more times since then. This last time was a memorable one! 6 members of my family flew out to South Dakota to watch my husband coach his last home game of the season. Since we knew we wouldn’t be having Thanksgiving together this year, we decided to celebrate it early!
Here’s my step by step guide to your fabulous Oven Roasted Turkey (Gluten-Free of course)!
We were feeding 8 adults and 2 children. A good rule of thumb is a 1 1/2 lbs of un-cooked turkey per person. This will allow for leftovers! Our bird measured in at 12 1/2 lbs. Pssst, don’t forget to take out the bag of goodies in the cavity! There are tons of recipes and ideas of what to do with them…but you won’t find them here 🙂
Step 1: Brining. This is not a mandatory step but will definitely help to retain moisture in the bird and add flavor. It can be done overnight (make sure it’s in a cold place) or 4-6 hours prior to cooking. Most recipes call for 2 gallons of water to 2 lbs of salt for the quicker soak, however, if soaking overnight, cut salt in half. Disolve salt in a little bit of warm water and then top off with cold water. Most larger turkeys will not fit in frig. An easier option is a roaster bag or soak it in your sink. Perhaps you have a cooler that you can use. Either way, it should be completely submerged.
Get creative! Use herbs, onions, garlic, celery sticks, citrus…whatever flavor profile you are going for…throw it in with the brine solution. We chose thyme, celery sticks, lemons and onions. Again, this is not necessary but will add that extra depth of flavor to the final product.
Step 2: Seasoning. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Before cooking rinse your bird and pat dry. You may want to keep your brining fruits/veges reserved for stuffing the cavity before cooking. Place breast side up in a pan that is large enough to hold your bird. Make sure it has sides. I was able to get mine into a 9X13″ lasagna pan. Now get ready to get messy! Take a stick of softened butter and go to town! Give that turkey a rub down. Now for a little extra fun, pull up the skin and try to tuck as much butter as possible between the meat and the skin. If needed you can gently use a knife to seperate the skin from the meat. This will help to keep your turkey moist and delicious and also helps in giving it that nice brown crisp skin.
Step 3: Stuffing. I’m not a huge fan of bread stuffing inside my turkey, but to each his own. If you wish to stuff it with your bread stuffing, now is the time. I, instead, used the same items that I brined it with and stuffed that inside the cavity. If your turkey does not come with the ties for the legs, kitchen twine is the next best thing. Tie those legs together…we’re almost ready to cook! Lastly, I salt and pepper my turkey generously. You may want to create a herb mix of your own to season the skin prior to cooking. The butter will help to adhere your seasoning to the skin. I like to add a cup or two of chicken stock to the bottom of the pan, but this is not absolutely necessary. Your beautiful bird should be looking something like this:
Step 4: Cooking & Basting. Now, let’s talk time. My rule of thumb is approx 20 minutes per pound of turkey. Do the math (12.5 (lbs) x 20 min= 250 minutes or a little over 4 hours). Another way of checking doneness is when your meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Most store bought turkeys will also come with that handy little plastic thingy that will pop out when “turkey’s done!” Cover your turkey with aluminum foil and cook for the first hour with the foil on. After one hour, remove foil and baste turkey with the surrounding drippings. Baste each additional 30-45 minutes until your turkey is done.
Now let’s compare the before and after…because it’s just that pretty!
Step 5: Resting & Gravy. Carefully remove the turkey from the pan and place on a large cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil and let it rest for a good 20-30 minutes. Don’t skip this step as it will help retain the juices. Don’t throw away those drippings in the pan!! Use a colander to strain any solids and place the liquid in a sauce pan. Over medium heat whisk in a tablespoon or two of cornstarch to thicken your gravy. After cutting, you can even drizzle a little over the meat to give it a fantastic punch of flavor. Place gravy in a dish and allow guests to ladle on more as they please.