How-to Make That Perfect Turkey
Tip #1: Buy a quality turkey
Using good ingredients is one of the cardinal rules in cooking. You can’t end up with a great turkey if you don’t start with a good bird! Buy a quality turkey from a farm or your favorite store. The meat will be more tender and flavourful!
Tip #2: Brine
Brining is one of the best ways to season and flavour the whole turkey. It also has another advantage of cutting down on roasting time.
Make sure the whole bird is submerged in the brine – if not you’ll have to turn it a few times. You also don’t have to stick to just a salt and water brine but can add various flavourings to the water. A general rule is one hour of brining per pound of turkey. Give the turkey a quick rinse with cold water after brining.
A wonderful and fast-growing alternative to the traditional wet brine is dry brine. Baking soda is mixed with coarse salt (like Kosher salt) then sprinkled evenly over a turkey that has been patted dry. The turkey is refrigerated for 24 – 72 hours, giving it time to initially draw out moisture from the turkey and then reabsorb some of that moisture and with it, some of the salt.
Tip #3: Dry the turkey well
If you used the wet-brine method: before roasting, dry the surface and cavity of the turkey well with paper towels.
Tip #4: Room Temperature
Bring the turkey to room temperature before roasting. This can take an hour or even a bit longer but don’t omit this step – it’ll allow the turkey to start roasting as soon as it goes into the oven
Tip #5: Compound Butter
Compound butter is another great way to add flavour to turkey and keep it moist.
If you used the wet-brine method: carefully loosen the skin from the turkey breast and legs. Add the butter under the skin and smooth over the breasts and legs. Reserve some butter to smooth all over the turkey skin. Savvy Tip: To get even more flavour into the turkey, use a fork and make pricks in the meat directly – do not puncture the skin else the liquid will seep out during roasting.
If you used a dry-brine method: rub softened compound butter over the skin before roasting. You can also brush some on occasionally during roasting.
Tip #6: Cheesecloth
Laying a large, damp piece of cheesecloth over the breast and down the sides of the turkey is a great way to help get a golden brown colour. After roasting, simply peel it off being careful not to tear the skin.
Tip #7: Use a rack or an aromatic bed
Prevent the bottom of the turkey from sticking to the pan or getting soggy by using a roasting rack or a thick bed of coarsely chopped aromatics like onions, leeks, celery or celery root, carrots, parsnips, and apples. Reserve a few aromatics and herbs to lightly stuff the cavity of the turkey with.
Tip #8: Roast it right!
Use a roasting pan that has low sides so the oven heat will circulate well around the turkey. This way the turkey will actually roast and not steam. Start at a high temperature of 425°F (218°C) and roast for 25 – 30 minutes until the skin starts to turn golden. Lower the heat to 325°F (163°C) and continue roasting until the turkey is cooked. If you don’t have a convection oven, rotate the pan a few times to help get an even browning.
Tip #9: Thermometer & Carry-over cooking
Using a meat thermometer is the best way to test for doneness! Also, account for carry-over cooking, which is when food continues to cook even after it’s removed from the heat. When the thigh temperature registers at 170°F (77°C) remove from the oven. Cover loosely with foil and let it continue heating to an internal temperature of 180°F (82°C).
Tip #10: Final tips
Trussing – trussing the turkey will help give a pleasing shape but it doesn’t speed up cooking. You can decide your preference
V-shaped roasting rack – using a V-shaped rack will also help your turkey keep shape by holding it in a snug, fixed position during roasting
Let it rest – after the turkey has roasted, let it rest for 10 – 15 minutes before carving to help the juices redistribute throughout the turkey.