There are two secrets to roasting the most amazing turkey that will have your friends and family begging you for the recipe and asking to you host again next year! Before I share those with you, I'd like to thank my step-mom, Debra Keuper, for sharing these with me - for more years than I can remember, she hosted Thanksgiving for 20-40 people and every year the turkey was perfectly amazing! Actually, everything was amazing and no one else in the family wanted to take over hosting Thanksgiving because she left such big shoes to fill....
SECRET #1 - BRINE YOUR BIRD!
If you have never done this, this is the easiest and most important step to a perfectly juicy turkey. Brining is similar to marinating, you let the turkey soak in saltwater for 24 hours prior to cooking it. It increases the moisture holding capacity of the meat and results in a juicier product when cooked. Here is my brine recipe:
10 cups water
3 cups coarse salt
3 cups sugar
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 dried bay leaves
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
(Optional - add 6 sprigs of your favorite fresh herbs - thyme, parsley, and rosemary are my favorite)
**This is for a 15-20 lb turkey, if you have a larger bird, increase the sugar and salt by one cup each and add 2 more cups water.
1. Put all ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil, stirring until salt and sugar dissolve.
2. Remove from heat and let brine cool completely.
3. If your stockpot is big enough, you can place your turkey directly into the pot of brine (BREAST FIRST), cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
4. Remove turkey from brine; pat dry with towels and let stand at room temperate for 30 minutes to 1 hour before roasting.
NOTES: If your turkey is too big (most are) then you can use a BRINING BAG - sold in most kitchen stores (Bed Bath Beyond, Sur La Tab, Crate and Barrel, etc) and some grocery stores. If cannot find a bag or your turkey is too big for the bag, then you can do what I did last year and use a cooler. Yes, a camping cooler! If you live in a cool climate, you only need bit of ice to keep this bird cool enough, if you live in a warmer climate, then add more ice and store in a cooler place.
SECRET #2 - USE A CHEESECLOTH DURING ROASTING!
You can buy cheesecloths at most grocery stores. There are two ways to do this - one using no dairy or oils and only using broth and one slightly more indulgent version using butter and wine. The preference is yours. Either way, this comes out great. Here are the ingredients and steps to take:
5 cloves garlic. minced
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons pepper, divided
1 quart organic chicken broth
Optional - 2 cups dry white wine plus 1-2 sticks organic, grass-fed unsalted butter (use this combination instead of broth)
1. Preheat your oven to 325. (You can look up the recommended cooking time based on the size of your bird here.)
2. Fold your cheesecloth into 4 quarters so that it is large enough to cover the breast.
3. Heat broth (or butter-wine mixture) in a small pot over medium heat. When hot and melted, add folded cheesecloth and immerse to soak completely.
4. Place the turkey, breast side up, in the roasting pan, fold wing tips under, sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt and pepper in the cavity and then loosely fill with stuffing (if using). Tie legs together with kitchen twine and fold the neck flap under; secure with toothpicks. Rub your turkey all over with minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
5. Remove cheesecloth from broth or butter-wine mixture and squeeze ever so gently. Lay dripping cheesecloth over turkey breasts and place turkey, legs first, into the oven.
6. Reserve broth or butter-wine mixture on stovetop and baste (or brush) onto turkey (soaking cheesecloth) every 30 minutes for the first 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours of roasting. Remove cheesecloth for the last hour to hour and half of cooking time. Once turkey juices start collecting in the bottom of the roasting pan, you can use those to re-baste and soak the cheesecloth and the turkey. Cover the turkey with tin foil if outside is browning too quickly.
7. Remove the turkey from the oven and let stand for 30 minutes before carving it.
NOTES: I also rotate the roasting pan once during the middle of the cooking time. You want to cook the turkey until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees (this is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendation) and stuffing reaches 165 degrees. For an even moister turkey, I cook it until it reaches 170 as it will continue to cook a bit when you remove it from the oven and let it stand before carving.
Jennifer and I both would like to wish each of you a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving Celebration with your friends and family! Enjoy...
Billie Shellist, FDN-P
I practice functional nutrition, an approach that allows me to look at your entire health history and help you find the "root causes" of your chronic health complaints.
This cuts out the trial and error process and helps you get real symptom relief and resolution!
Food is medicine and knowledge is power -I hope you enjoy my anti-inflammatory recipes which are gluten, dairy, and soy free as well as very low grain and sugar.
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