There are many methods on getting that super moist, mouth-watering turkey to your table, successfully. One method – brining. Brining increases the moisture content, ensuring that your turkey will remain moist during the entire roasting process.
Brining breaks down and extracts some of the proteins from the turkey, which allows the liquid to be absorbed inside. Once cooked, the proteins coagulate, preventing the liquids from escaping. The salt draws out the blood, which cleanses the little guy, and is absorbed into the meat, which results in a juicy and seasoned turkey right down to the bone.
- Be sure not to pick a pre-basted or kosher turkey, when brining.
- Do not stuff the turkey. Stuffing will become too salty.
- When buying a bird, the rule of thumb is 1lb = 1 person (This will create leftovers!)
- Make a small investment in a thermometer!
Choose a small, fresh turkey in the 14-16lb category. The larger the turkey, the longer the cooking time. If you are the host/hostess to more than a dozen guests, try buying two small turkeys rather than one big one.
Turkey must be completely thawed before brining. You will need to soak the turkey for at least 10-12 hours, if not overnight. Use a container that will be large enough to submerge the turkey and cover completely with brining solution. The flip side of that, make sure you can still fit it into your refrigerator!
If you do not have a container, you can also use a brining bag. Add the solution and turkey to the bag, just like you would in a container. Be sure to get all the excess air out of the top of the bag before sealing it. To avoid leaks, place the bag into a deep pan.
How much brining solution to use:
- To determine how much salt to use, place the turkey into its container and pour measured amounts of cold water over it, until completely covered. For each 1-gallon of water use 1 cup Kosher Salt. (For example, a 16lb turkey requires about 2 gallons of brining solution.)
- Remove the turkey, temporarily from the container. The salt should be completely dissolved first, before the turkey is returned to the container. You can do this by adding the amount of salt you will need to two quarts of water and boil until all salt is dissolved. Once cool, add to container and let the turkey bathe. You should cover the container when placing in the refrig. Additional spices can be added to the solution like herbs and spices.
After 10-12 hours, remove turkey from bine, pat dry and discard the solution. Place the turkey breast side up on a roasting rack, or in a roasting pan. If you have the time, place it back in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight to allow the surface to dry thoroughly. This will insure a crispy, golden skin on your roasted turkey.
In the oven:
The turkey should stand at room temperature 1 to 2 hours before cooking. Now brined, you cook your turkey by roasting, grilling, smoking, etc. A brined turkey will generally cook faster, so watch that thermometer. Remove when the deepest spot (between the leg and breast) reads 180°F on your thermometer. Rule of thumb, 1 hour in the oven for every 4 lbs. on your turkey.
If you have a poultry injector, go ahead and inject it with your flavorful liquids…broth, olive oil, etc. You can use your fresh herbs to tuck under the skin of the turkey, place it directly into the cavity, or sprinkle herbs over the exterior.
Once you get the turkey in the oven, resist the temptation to keep opening the oven door. Fluctuations in temperature result in drying out the turkey.
START HOT. For perfectly crispy, browned skin, start the oven at 425° for at least 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350° for the rest of the cooking time.
DON’T OVER BASTE. Basting is a good thing; constant basting is not. Every time you open the oven door to baste, it lets out heat, preventing the bird from cooking properly. You can protect the turkey breast from overcooking by roasting on the lowest rack in the oven. Once browned, loosely cover it with foil to prevent it from becoming too dark.
Keep a careful eye on the thermometer during the last half hour of cooking since the turkey’s temperature may rise rapidly toward the end.
IT’S DONE COOKING!
LET IT SIT. Plan on taking the turkey out of the oven and letting it relax about 20-30 mins before serving. Resting ensures juiciness. It’s not imperative that the turkey be served piping hot—better to be moist! You can place foil over the turkey to keep it hot.
Instead of slicing meat from the whole turkey, break it down into manageable pieces–breasts, legs–and carve those first. Remove both wings first. Separate each wing from the body at the joint. Remove each leg and set aside. Remove each breast half from the bone in one piece, and then thinly slice each half crosswise. Cut each leg at the joint, and then carve the meat from the thigh and drumstick.
Plate and serve with your sides! Enjoy!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM IT’S A LIFESTYLE!