FYI: This is about to be one of the rawest and realest post I’ve written to date. Truth be told, I’ve actually never independently cooked my own turkey! Please tell me I’m not alone in this? 1/2 of us (Caitlin) is a turkey making connoisseur, but the other half needs a very specific step by step guide to get through. Who’s with me?
Let’s be clear here, turkey is not a totally foreign concept. I’ve spent my life in more of the ‘assistant to the chef’ position when it came to cooking the show stopping part of Thanksgiving dinner. Without really understanding the process, I just assumed it was too many steps for me to handle and immediately offered to whip up the sides.
Because I will be spending Thanksgiving in my current home base of Boise, Idaho as opposed to my hometown, my time has finally come where the sole responsibility of a good meal lies on me. I definitely consider this is an ‘adulting’ milestone and I’m both nervous and excited about the challenge ahead. How many of you can relate?
Even if you’re a pro at this, this ‘turkey making for dummies’ post you’re about to read will be a great refresh. You might even learn a new technique! Let’s dive in!
1.Pick the Perfect Turkey
First off, size does matters. The general rule of thumb when choosing your beloved bird is to have approximately one pound per person. If you have a really large family (or a bunch of hockey players mouths to feed like myself), you definitely want to consider getting multiple turkeys. Food & Wine advises that birds over 18-20 pounds are much more likely to have been treated with chemicals. We ain’t about that, so a few smaller turkeys may be your best bet!
Speaking of chemicals, you really want to pay attention to the quality of your bird. Ideally, you want to splurge a little bit and buy an organic turkey. This will give you reassurance that your bird wasn’t injected with hormones, antibiotics, or other unknown chemicals. After all, you are what your food eats. Lucky for you, we’ve found the PERFECT place for you to purchase a turkey + other desired meat AND get $30 off your order. It’s extremely high quality and the taste is just out of this world.
Head to this link to redeem your $30 off!
2. Brine for 24-48 hours
This is a VERY important step. Brine is nothing more than just salt, sugar, water, and whatever herbs you desire. Because turkey is a lean meat, it can dry out quickly, thus making this step very essential. Note, the ideal amount of time to brine a turkey is 24-48 hours, so plan accordingly! This will also help your turkey thaw if you purchased frozen.
We recommend buying a plain turkey (like the one linked above) so you have full control over the flavors and taste. Avoid from buying the already based or enhanced turkeys.
Key thing to note: Make sure to pull out the giblets and neck before brining so you don’t forget them inside the bird before roasting.
Here is a step by step video that will make this step seem way more achievable.
Buy your brine bags HERE!
Organic Thanksgiving Turkey with Apple Cider Brine (Butcher Box)
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Easy Turkey Brine by What’s Gaby Cooking
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Note – if you bought a frozen turkey and choose not to do this step, make sure to take out of the freezer a few days before you plan to cook it. It will take a lot longer to thaw than one would think!
Season the Sh*t out of it
Now that you’ve brined the turkey to keep it nice and moist, its time to season the sh*t out of it to make it taste amazing! When you’re ready to roast the bird, remove the turkey from the brine / refrigerator, remove the giblets from inside, and pat dry with paper towels. Let it rest on a baking sheet for 2 hours until it comes to room temperature.
The trend here reveals that butter is in fact a carb and it really makes a difference in how your turkey turns out. You’ll want to grab a couple sticks or some ghee to help make your turkey one for the ages.
When it comes to stuffing the turkey, I’ve learned it’s better to keep it out. When you add stuffing into the turkey, it takes longer to cook and thus you run the risk of drying it out. You can absolutely still whip up a delicious stuffing recipe, but no need to actually put into the turkey itself. Instead, opt for throwing some spices or aromas to give your turkey some extra flavor. My Fearless Kitchen suggests adding onion, apple, a cinnamon stick, a few sprigs of rosemary, and a few sage leaves while Gaby likes to add citrus and herbs rather than stuffing.
If you want to add the stuffing right in to the bird, go right ahead! Something tells me I’m personally going to opt out this year and stick to the casserole dish.
When you’re seasoning the outside of the turkey, go ham. Rub some of the mixture under the skin (as far as you can go) and then the rest all over the outside of the turkey.
Butter and Sage Roasted Turkey by The Wooden Skillet
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Herb Roasted by What’s Gaby Cooking
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It’s Roasting Time!
Some tips you’ll want to keep in mind when throwing the bird in the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F to crisp up the skin and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees to continue cooking the bird until done.
- Either tuck the wings under the bird itself or wrap in tin foil (and remove 45 minutes before done) to avoid burning.
- Place turkey in oven, neck end first and breast up and tent foil over it.
- You can melt remaining stick of butter (or ghee) and add 1 Tablespoon sage as a baste or use drippings. Brush on every 1/2 hour while the turkey is cooking.
- According to this turkey genius, turkeys need about 15-18 minutes of cooking time per pound. Once the bird is cooked, thighs should register at 165°F (74°C) and the breasts should register at 160°F (71°C). As soon as the bird hits these temperatures, take it out and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.
- Turkey holds pretty well so you can time it to be done an hour or so before dinner time. That way you have time to let it rest, carve it and plate it.
Things You’ll Need
- A turkey (PS, here’s $30 off)
- Roasting Pan (Fancy or Cheap)
- Meat thermometer
- Carving Set
- Turkey baster
- Serving Platter (Here or check HomeGoods)!
Boom, YOU ARE DONE! See, it isn’t so bad! I will have to say, there are many methods to cooking the perfect turkey out there, but hopefully my research will help make it a little bit easier on you. Let us know how it all goes by tagging us @wanttherecipe on Instagram or Facebook! We can’t wait to see how you do!!