I had a lot of requests about how to make the perfect roast turkey. Well, I couldn't make 40 turkeys for each of the ways I could find to cook it, so I decided to simply tell you how I make mine instead. Below you will find my tips and then there is a list of great resources with more recipes and ideas than I can begin to count. These few simple things that I do really make a big difference in how the turkey comes out, think about trying one of them out this year!!
I think in order to make the perfect turkey, you need to brine it. What is brine? Well, it a salt water solution often with added flavors and herbs. It starts to break down the muscle tissue to make the meat tender, and it's salt water. What does eating salt do to us? It makes us retain water, and water retention in a food you are going to be roasting for a pretty long time is a good thing.
This is the recipe that we have been using for a brine for the last couple years: Good Eats Roast Turkey Brine. It comes from Alton Brown (YAY AB!) and really does make the juiciest, most tender turkey ever. Plus, it's really simple. (we don't follow the recipe for any of the rest of the recipe, but the brine is spectacular!)
I take my turkey out of the brine the night before Thanksgiving, put it into the roastin pan with all of the veggies and put it UNcovered in the fridge overnight. This makes the skin dry out and get really crispy and brown when you roast it the next day. Also, and this goes against everything you have ever heard about roasting a bird, is that I roast the turkey breast side DOWN for most of the cooking time. When the turkey is getting close to being done (maybe has about 30-45 minutes left), I take it out, drain off the juices for making gravy and put the bird back in the oven breast side UP so the skin can brown. What happens is that all of the fat and juices run down the breast, which is white meat and very lean, during most of the cooking time. It sucks up a lot of those and it helps to keep it moist. If you are still worried about the breast drying out, you can lay bacon on it post flip and that will help. It will also add some great flavor. Be cautioned, though, that the bacon may keep the skin from browning up.
As to what to put into the bird; I don't stuff a turkey. I personally don't think that the stuffing ever has a chance to really cook all the way through and if you think about it, raw poultry juices are dripping into the stuffing and if it doesn't cook all the way through.....well. There is going to be quite the fight for your bathroom in 6-8 hours if you catch my drift. However, if you aren't a giant baby like me and you stuff your turkey, more power to you and keep on keepin' on. To each his own! What I DO put inside of my turkey is a couple onions cut in half and 2 or 3 oranges cut in half. If I have any (or can get any that doesn't look pathetic) I may throw in a couple sage leaves. Lastly, do not forget to salt and pepper inside the cavity of the turkey. It needs to feel important too.
Here are a few links to some more turkey tips, recipes and tricks:
I'm sure there are many, many more out there but I'll leave it at that for now. It's time to plan your turkey roasting strategy now!