Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
It may not be holiday season yet but a little nip in the air is enough to remind us of the good times waiting just around the corner. Right after the excitement of Halloween is over its time to start preparing for Thanksgiving. For most of us, this is an elaborate ritual compared to the rest of the year and the one time where friends and family gather around each other. Ever since it started as a tradition and down 200 years when it became a national holiday, it has captured our hearts with every single detail that goes into the making of this day. The turkey of course takes center place in all these and there is nothing compared to having that perfect turkey set on the table.
Some of us have the best of recipes handed down through generations while others can get the best dressed turkeys delivered to their doorstep. Whatever works, as long as you are having fun. But if you like to cook and want to try out the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe a little online research can go a long way. You will get advice from the expert chefs to cozy homemakers who have that special touch in the kitchen along with dabbling in blogs. Here’s one that combines the heartiness of grandmother’s kitchen along with the special touches that belong to the 21st century woman.
This particular recipe is cooked with the turkey breast-side down which somehow accounted for the turkey to remain juicy and succulent even after hours of roasting. The meat is super tender at the end and flavorful which has as much to do with the recipe as for the fact that the best kind of free-range, organic turkey was chosen for the dish. Also, the turkey stuffing is cooked separately instead of the cavity which is the common practice. As a result, the turkey is cooked better and more evenly.
The ingredients needed for this dish are:
- 1 turkey about 15-18 lb if you are entertaining around 14-16 people
- Lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper
- Melted butter or you can use olive oil if you want
- Onion, about half of it peeled and quartered
- 1 to 2 carrots
- 1 bunch of parsley
- A bunch of celery, top and bottom parts
- Several sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme
Make sure you thaw out the chill from the turkey thoroughly before you start prepping. Take it out of the freezer and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how frozen it is. Overall, it takes about four hours to cook with an extra 15 minutes for prepping. But even before this de-chilling phase comes the defrosting part, especially when you plan with a frozen turkey. depending on the size of the turkey it can take several days or hours. So take it out of the freezer, place the wrapped turkey on a pan and defrost in the regular fridge. If you are using a 15-18 lb turkey it will take you a little over 3 days to properly defrost it. Once you are ready to cook take it out and follow instructions as mentioned above. Letting it come down to room temperature helps in cooking more evenly.
Now it’s time to remove the turkey from its package. Reach deep into the main cavity of the bird and pull out its neck and giblets which are basically the gizzard, heart, liver. Some people like to use these in stock for either the dressing or stuffing, others use these to make giblet gravy. You can also chop off the neck and cook it along with the turkey and use it later for a quick turkey soup. Now rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out with water. Make sure all innards and feathers have been completely cleared off. Pat dry with paper towels and keep aside. If you want you can remove the plastic tie that holds the drumsticks together but you will have to tie them up before cooking with kitchen twine or strong thread.
Set the oven to preheat to 400 degrees F.
Now the fun part. It’s time to truss up the turkey any way you want.
First anoint the interior with half a portion of the lemon juice. Next rub in about a tablespoon of salt over it, ensuring that the entire turkey inside has been coated.
Select your aromatics to flavor the turkey as it cooks slowly. Cut the onion into wedges and put it in the main cavity of the turkey along with the carrots, several sprigs of parsley and celery. Cover the opening with an aluminum foil to prevent these from falling out and add a few sprigs of parsley for aroma.
Truss up the turkey to keep the legs and wings close to the body and prevent them from spreading out while cooking.
Now rub the outside of the turkey with softened butter or olive oil all over. Sprinkle salt and pepper generously over the turkey as well.
Now place the turkey on a rack over a sturdy roasting pan which is big enough to catch all the drippings. Make sure you gauge how long it will take for your turkey to cook properly. Depending on the size it typically takes about 13-14 minutes per pound so this should give you a rough estimate for the overall cooking time.
A helpful tip to remember here is that you can place it breast down instead of upside down for better taste and softness. This way the juices fall into the breast making it the most succulent breast ever. Tuck in sprigs of fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary under the wings.
Put the turkey in the oven at 400°F, uncovered. After 2 hours you can reduce the heat to 325°F and further down to 225°F until done. Make sure to check how the turkey is doing well at intervals so that you can be sure of its success. Use a meat thermometer to get the right inside temperature and to get the right indicator for cooking. For the thighs and legs or dark meat it should read 170°F, for the breast or white meat it should read 165°F. The juices should be clear instead of the raw pink.
Many people like the breast to be more browned. In that case the turkey will need to be turned over when it is close to being done. Place it in a under the broiler or 500°F oven for 4 to 5 minutes but make sure it doesn’t overcook. This process can be messy and tough so only tackle if you are sure you won’t end up opening up the whole thing.
Once done, remove the turkey from the oven and let it sit for a while. Cover with aluminum foil to keep it warm till it is ready to be carved.
You must have noticed that there was no mention of stuffing when the turkey was being filled up. Well, you can of course go ahead and do it the tradition way and put the stuffing in before roasting. Or you can use this tip to let the turkey cook more evenly and make the stuffing separately. Instead you can take your time to make your own stuffing using the stock made from the turkey giblets. This way the overall cooking will be actually less and the stuffing will have better turkey flavor than usual.
This is easy and you can do it at the tail end when the turkey is resting after roasting. Use the drippings from the roasting and put them into a skillet. If you want you can skim the extra fat off for later use. Set on medium heat on the range or stovetop.
Mix cornstarch with water to make thin slurry and slowly add the mixture to the drippings once it’s heated up. Stir constantly to avoid lumps. The gravy will thicken in a slow pace and now it will time to add herbs like ground sage and thyme along with seasonings like pepper and salt.
Finally, your perfect Thanksgiving turkey is ready.
Written by Bambi Majumdar.