Turkey - The King of Thanksgiving
This Turkey! Is so good! Trust Me!
While the picture doesn't look great - thanks to the constant rain in Seattle in the Fall - I promise that the turkey tastes better. There are two reasons for this. Butter and brine. This post is rather long, so buckle-up, grab a glass of wine, and let's do this.
Thanksgiving turkeys are often quite overwhelming. Once you've cooked them a few times, it gets better. But I remember the first time I made a turkey for thanksgiving, we were celebrating the holiday with my Husband's family in Platteville, WI, and somehow I was the one making the turkey. I had never done it before, and had no idea where to start. Not to mention, the oven I was using was so small the turkey barely even fit. I have learned a lot since that day, almost 6 years ago, and I am so excited to share my experience with all of you.
First - The plan. I know this sounds wild, plan for your turkey? But trust me, the last thing you want to do is go pick-up your turkey from the grocery store the day before thanksgiving and find it frozen solid. It will take anywhere from 24 hours, and up to 4 days, for a turkey to completely thaw in the fridge. These birds are massive, so if you have a bird that is 20lbs or over, plan on the longer side. Also, aside from thawing, you want to make sure you can actually buy a turkey. Some grocery stores run out of turkeys the closer you get to the big day. So plan ahead, your future self will thank you.
Second - Turkey always turns out better when it is brined. I never used to believe this, and thought it was a completely unnecessary step, but it's not. I can promise you, after years of trial and error, that my turkeys come out consistently moist and flavorful when I brine them. I don't make my own brine, but you can, and my dad and grandma do. I absolutely love the Autumn Fruit & Spice brine blend from William Sonoma. The flavors are incredible, and it makes my house smell SO GOOD. Here is where planning is again important. You want to brine your turkey at least 12 hours before you start cooking it. This will likely mean the day before. So your turkey must be purchased and thawed by this time. And this brine requires that you heat it up, and then cool it, so you must plan for that time as well. The plan really is key here
Third - Butter. An herb butter to be exact. My mother-in-law taught me this trick - to slather the turkey in herb butter, both under the skin and on top of the skin - and now I swear by it every year. I'm making the turkey for my family this year (my dad usually makes the turkey) but since this will be the first Thanksgiving at I'm home in 7 years I figured I would volunteer to make the turkey. I can't wait for my fam to eat a turkey that's been slathered in butter!
Fourth - Let your turkey rest, and make a gravy. Do not throw away those drippings. EVER. Use them to make a gravy. I have the easiest recipe listed out below, and it is so delicious and easy. It is the last step in the whole process, and can be whipped up while you let your turkey rest after taking it out of the oven.
Ok, we've walked through what I think are the most important steps, let's get to the recipe.
🏷 Time: 4 hours Active, 24 hours Inactive
🏷 Serves 12
1 Autumn Fruit & Spice Brine
1 Medium Onion, quartered
1 Apple, quartered
1c Salted Butter, softened
1tsp Italian Seasoning
1/2tsp Garlic Powder
1/2tsp Garlic Herb Seasoning
2tsp Fresh Minced Rosemary
1/2tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
1/2c heavy cream
1.5c chicken stock
The Brine - The day before
The day before, prepare the brining liquid according to package instructions
Rinse the turkey, and remove all of the gizzzards
Using a brining bag and a large bucket (must be able to hold at least 20lbs and 5 gallons), place brining bag into the bucket.
Add the turkey to the bucket, and pour brine over turkey. Zip the brining bag, and place the bucket into your refrigerator for at least 12 hours. The longer it brines the juicier and more flavorful it will be.
The Butter - The day of
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and herbs
Mix on medium until fully combined. Set aside 1/4 cup of the butter mixture to be used for the gravy. The remaining 3/4 cup will be used for the turkey (we want to separate these now, so the gravy butter doesn't get contaminated)
The Turkey - The day of
Remove the turkey from the brine and pour out all of the brine. The brining liquid cannot be used to cook with, and must be thrown away because it is not safe to consume.
Rinse the turkey to get all of the pieces of brine off of the bird
Pat the turkey dry with paper towel
Place turkey on roasting rack and put back into the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will help the turkey to have a crispy skin
Preheat oven to 400°F
Remove turkey from the fridge and fill the cavity of the turkey with the quartered onion and apple. The fruit and vegetables will steam inside the turkey and create moisture from the inside, creating a juicy turkey
With the turkey breast side up, use your fingers to separate the skin of the turkey from the meat. Add 1TBSP of herbed butter between the skin and the meat to each of the turkey breasts. Repeat near the legs of the turkey.
Massage 2TBSP of butter on the outside of the turkey making sure to get all of the skin covered
Flip the turkey over so the breast side of the turkey is now on the roasting rack.
Use your fingers to get under the skin of the turkey and spread butter under the skin of this side of the turkey
Massage butter on this side of the turkey as well.
Use all of the butter. Make sure the whole turkey has butter massaged into it, and that butter is added anywhere you can get under the skin.
Now your turkey is ready to go in the oven.
Starting with the breast side down, bake at 400°F for 50 minutes
Take turkey out of the oven and base it with the drippings in the pan
Using two forks turn the turkey so it is now breast side up. Bake at 400°F for another 50 minutes, basing the breasts at the 25 minute mark to ensure a nice crispy skin and a moist turkey
Remove the turkey from the oven once the breast registers 160°F and the thighs register 175°F using a cooking thermometer (I've linked my favorite)
Let the turkey rest for at least 35 minutes before slicing
The Gravy - The day of
Remove the rack from the roasting pan and tent the turkey to let it rest
Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium heat
Using a wire whisk, scrape the drippings off of the bottom of the roasting pan
Once the drippings of the turkey have combined, sprinkle 1/3c of flour into the pan, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes. We are cooking out the flavor of the flour at this point
Add chicken stock, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat to low, add heavy cream, and stir until fully combined
If the gravy is still too thick at this point, add more chicken stock. If it isn't thick enough, bring the gravy to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low
The gravy will thicken as it cools
Use this gravy on everything at the table, you will be so glad you did!