The Perfect Turkey
Want to amaze your guests and make the perfect turkey this Thanksgiving? So do I, so we’re in this together. Luckily I have a bit of experience and have cooked my fare share of turkeys. The tried and true method to the perfect turkey is brining the bird. I can’t stress this enough. BRINE. BRINE. BRINE.
What makes the perfect turkey? The key to the perfect turkey is moisture, flavor and a crisp skin. Nobody has time for a dried bird. Turkey is easily over cooked because it is so lean. During the cooking process the turkey’s muscle fibers will break down which results in loss of moisture. We can combat this loss of moisture by brining the turkey. During the brining period, the solution will break down some muscle fibers and absorbs the brine.
Brining a turkey is a relativity easy process. Premade store bought brines can be purchased and this is my preferred method. It’s relatively easy to blend your own spices and make your own brine. Below I will outline my three favorite store bought brines and a simple blend of spices to make your own.
My favorite blend of pre-made brining spices is the Williams Sonoma Garlic and Rosemary blend. This blend is a mixture of garlic, rosemary, sea salt, sage, fennel, black pepper, and pink peppercorns. This can be purchased from their website and varies in sizes and price.
Get Williams Sonoma Brine <- CLICK HERE
My next favorite brining blend is from the faithful Traeger Grills. Traeger did not disappoint with this blend. The Traeger Orange Brine and Turkey Rub kit comes with a brining solution and rub. This is a blend of different herbs and orange peels.
I have used this many times and like to add the juice of two fresh cut oranges and orange peels into the brine. When using this kit I also stuff the turkey with some fresh cut orange wedges during the cooking process. This kit can be purchased at some authorized Traeger dealers and on their website for $10.99. Traeger also offers this in a kit combined with a blend of Oak, Hickory and Maple pellets infused with Rosemary. The Brine and pellet package can be purchased from their website for $29.99.
Get Traeger Grills Orange Brine and Rub kit <-CLICK HERE
If I’m a slacker and didn’t order my brining solution from Williams Sonoma or Traeger, I will purchase a brining solution from my local Cost Plus. The Cost Plus Turkey Brining solution consists of sea salt, raw sugar, dried cranberries, garlic, sage, apple, orange peel, dried juniper berries, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary. The Cost Plus brining solution can be purchased in store or online for $5.99.
Get Cost Plus Turkey Brine <-CLICK HERE
If you are not interested in purchasing a pre-made brine mixture you can simply make you own. If making a whole turkey, mix two cups of salt to one gallon of water. If using a turkey breast dissolved ½ cup of salt in 1 quart of water. Add whatever spices you desire. I normally add garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, 1cup of brown sugar, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary.
Each one of the above brines will need to be dissolved in hot water, cooled and then can be used to brine the turkey.
If using a frozen turkey thaw in the refrigerator beforehand. Removed the turkey from the packaging making sure to remove the neck and gizzards. Set them aside for a later use if desired. Rinse the turkey under cold running water and clean the cavity. Once the turkey is clean you can place it in a brining bag and pour in the brine over the turkey. Make sure the brining solution is cool and not hot. If the brining solution does not cover the turkey add water until it is covered. Remove the air from the brining bag and seal. The turkey can also be brined in a large pot, bucket, ice chest or whatever other large container you have on hand. Brining bags can be purchased as most grocery stores as well.
Now, time for the difficult part. Once the turkey is covered in the brining solution it will need to be kept cold or refrigerated. Depending on you refrigerators capabilities this can be a difficult task. What I have found easiest for me is placing the brining bag and turkey in a cooler and covering with ice or ice packs. I store the cooler in my garage where the temperature is much cooler. You should brine you turkey a minimum of 12 hours and no more than 24 hours.
After the turkey has brined, remove it from the solution and rinse well. Discard the solution and pat the turkey dry. Once the turkey is dry, stuff the cavity. Before stuffing I season the turkey’s cavity with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley. I stuff the cavity with fresh cut carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers, garlic cloves, thyme and rosemary.
I do not sew me bird closed but rather I use fresh cut vegetables to close off the cavity. Sometime I will cut off the ends of a loaf of sourdough bread that I have had staling for a few days. Once the ends are hard enough, I will use them to secure the bird’s cavity.
Place the turkey in a roasting pan equipped with a wire rack breast side up. Rub the turkey down with olive oil and season it with salt, pepper, garlic salt and Italian seasoning. Place a few fresh cut carrots, celery, garlic cloves, and onions in the roasting pan. Add a few cups of chicken stock to the roasting pan.
Pre heat your over or grill on indirect heat to 325 degrees.
Once the turkey is in the oven/grill it is time to make a basting solution. Mix a stick of melted butter with some chicken stock, minced garlic and dried parsley. Baste the turkey every hour until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees. Remove from the oven, rest 30 minutes and carve.
I cook my turkey in a Traeger Grill for added smoky flavor. Place the roasting pan on the Traeger and cook at 225 degrees for the first two hours. Baste with the same solution every hour. After the first two hours increase the temperature to 325 degrees and continue to cook until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165 degrees.
If during the cooking process the chicken skin starts to burn tint it with a double layer of tin foil. I will also rotate my turkey every few hours to achieve an even cook. Lastly, I also baste my turkey with the liquids as accumulate on the bottom of the roasting pan in addition to the basting mixture.
Spend this holiday season with friends, family and make memories. Follow my Instagram @freedomsohard and please subscribe on the right side of my home page. Happy Thanksgiving.