By: Martha Matthews
When it comes to finding directions on how to roast the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, suddenly everyone you know becomes an expert.
Your neighbor, your mail carrier, the waitress at the restaurant where you have lunch with your girlfriends, your best friend, the dog groomer, the checker at the grocery store, your hairdresser, your car repairman (even though he's never cooked a turkey in his life) and last but not least your pest control man. Everyone has to put in their two cents worth on the subject. Well, I guess that means I'm in good company. Here are my instructions on how to cook the best turkey you'll ever eat.
I am going to let you in on a little secret. This is the method that the best restaurants use to give their turkeys incredible flavor. What is the secret? It's called flavor brining. Yes, that's what they do. Historically brining was done as a method of preserving. However, today it is used primarily as a vehicle to impart flavor and moisture into a lean cut of meat.
Here are the steps to brining a turkey.
1. Start with a non-reactive container such as a large food service container or other food-safe container.
2. Determine the amount of brine mixture you will need by putting your turkey in the container and covering it with water. Remove the turkey and measure the remaining water. This is the amount you will need to make. Discard this water and use fresh water for your brine.
3. Place your turkey in the container and cover with the brine (recipe to follow). Refrigerate in the brine for at least 12 hours or up to two days if desired. If you are concerned about the bird being too salty, stop after the 12 hour period. Better to err on the side of less than too much.
4. When the brining process is complete, rinse the bird well and pat dry. Air dry the bird over-night in the refrigerator to let the skin dry. This will help in the crisping of the skin as it roasts. Stuff your turkey as usual and roast according to the instructions below.
This is a general recipe. You may need to double the recipe to get enough to cover your bird. Spices may be added to this mixture to create your own unique flavor.
In a non-reactive container, mix until dissolved the following ingredients.
1 gallon of cool, water.
1 cup of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (if using Morton's Kosher salt, use 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup of white or brown sugar
Pour the mixture over the turkey and refrigerate.
Additional spice and seasoning suggestions: Add any or all of the following to your brine mixture: bay leaves, juniper berries, black pepper corns, dried thyme, and garlic cloves.
The goal in cooking a turkey is to get your bird cooked and beautifully browned without drying out the breast. Here's the problem: white meat cooks faster than dark meat. Traditionally, the bird is cooked breast-side up. This method causes the breast meat to cook quickly while the legs that are under the bird cook slowly. What you end up with is dried-out breast meat in order for the legs and thighs to be done properly.
So what is the answer you ask? Roast your turkey breast side down. Now before you brand me a heretic and have me burned at the stake, hear me out. Yes this is not how your mother or grandmother did it but I am telling you, once you try this method you will never go back to cooking your turkey breast-side up again.
Why do it this way? Because when the breast meat in on the bottom, not only is it protected and cooks a little slower but all the juices that are in the turkey drain down into the breast making it moist, tender and juicy. Unless you have your heart set on a Norman Rockwell presentation, this is the best position in which to cook your bird. It may not look as pretty as the other, but who carves their turkey at the table anyway? We never do.
The last tip to the perfect turkey is to put your bird in the oven a leave it there until it is done. Calculate the amount of time that it will take to cook your bird, then put it in the oven and don't peek until the timer goes off. No basting is necessary. You don't need to baste if you cook the turkey breast-side down.
About the Author:
Copyright 2002.Martha Matthews is the Editor of Christian- Homemaking.com, a web site with resources dedicated to Christian homemaking. She also has a free monthly newsletter for Christian wives called The Wives of Excellence Newsletter. Visit http://www.christian-homemaking.com