How to Cook a Turkey

What You’ll Need for Cooking a Turkey:

  • 12-16 lb turkey 
  • kosher salt and sugar for brine
  • butter
  • wine
  • water
  • fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, sage
  • peppercorns
  • carrots
  • onion
  • celery
  • garlic
  • don’t forget to remove the giblets and neck from the turkey

Turkey Roasting Tools:

  • Brining bags if doing a wet brine
  • 12 X 16 roasting pan with V rack 
  • Kitchen twine to truss the legs
  • Silicone basting brush
  • Digital thermometer
  • Sharp carving knife / 8″ chef’s knife 

How to Prep a Turkey:

  • Brine the turkey with a wet or dry method.
  • Place the turkey on a v-rack roasting pan and stuff the turkey with aromatics and herbs, scattering more onion, carrots, celery, and garlic on the bottom of the pan with herbs.
  • Gently pry the skin from the breasts with your fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon. Spread butter between the skin and meat, then baste the whole bird with a combination of melted butter and wine that has cooled so it’s just barely clumpy so it sticks to the skin and doesn’t roll off.
  • Add a combination of water and wine, turkey stock, or chicken stock to the bottom of the pan to add moisture to the cooking environment and flavor the drippings for gravy later.

How to Cook a Turkey:

  • Start with roasting a 14-15 lb bird, breast side-up, at 425°F for 1 hour. Reduce the heat to 325°F for 1 1/2-2 hours. The first blast of high heat gives the turkey a head start on achieving that golden delicious skin.
  • After the first 45 minutes of cooking, loosely tent the top of your turkey (the breast and legs) with a piece of aluminum foil. Then cook for 15 minutes more. Adding the piece of aluminum foil protects the breast meat by deflecting the heat to avoid overcooking.
  • Check the progress of your bird midway through your expected total cooking time.
  • Use a digital thermometer to check the thickest parts of the breast, thigh, and leg. Continue to check every half hour or so. Add more water to the bottom of the roasting pan as needed.
  • Turkey breast meat should be cooked to at least 160°F. The thickest part of the leg and thigh should cook to 170-180°F. Be sure to avoid touching the bone. I find that even registering 180°F—the recommended temperature for a fully done turkey—my brined turkey breasts are still juicy and delicious.
  • Save those drippings! They’re the key to the best gravy. Strain the veggies from the drippings then use the residual with flour and chicken stock or water to make the best gravy ever.
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