True confession. I don’t do turkey the way my Granny did. It turns out there are even better options. Because I’m grateful for each of you, I’m sharing my secrets here. Feel free to share them far and wide and feed them to those you love!
Dry turkey is never on anyone’s menu, but it seems that it shows up on an awful lot of serving platters. Hence, the big name guys with the magic basting goo, turkey fryers, syringes for injecting liquid brine solutions, smearing the whole thing with butter, etc., etc. This is the way to do it Juicy meat, crispy skin, perfect flavor, all natural and with very little effort. And easy enough for a first time Thanksgiving host to manage!
Ingredient Notes: Buy the best you can get. It takes some hunting. Local farmers. Whole Foods. Dean & DeLuca, Zingermans, White Oak Pastures. Ours are Heritage breed birds, pasture raised by local, sustainable farmers. I like turkeys in the 18-20 pound range because they fit in my oven and I want lots of bones and leftover meat for soup. I can actually feed 75-100 people from one turkey by making bone broth and using it well! (You can, too!) Thaw, if needed, in a fridge. It may take up to 72 hours to thaw a turkey this size. Or, scale down, if desired!
Brining: This is optional but I highly recommend it. I’ve tried both wet and dry brines and I like dry the best. It’s easier, often cheaper, a lot less messy, and ultimately, more effective. And it has no sugar! The purpose is to season the bird, while holding juices in the muscle for a moist, tender turkey, with gorgeous, crispy, perfectly seasoned skin. Wash your hands a lot during the process! You’ll need:
Coarse grey Celtic sea salt
Freshly ground pepper (black or mixed colors)
Dried thyme (or other herbs as desired)
A pan large enough to hold the turkey loosely. (ie Eco-foil from your local supermarket. Nobody’s perfect!)
Mix together in a small bowl: 4 Tbsp. coarse sea salt with 2 Tbsp. ground pepper and 1 1/2 Tbsp crushed, dried thyme, etc., if desired. (You can also do this with just salt, in which case you may need an extra Tbsp. for coverage.) Don’t use regular table or fine grind salt! It leaves a bitter taste and you have to reduce the amount significantly so it’s hard to cover the whole bird without making it too salty.
For an 18-20 pound, thawed turkey, remove any neck and innards. Reserve them for other uses as needed. I freeze the neck, heart, and gizzard for soup stock or feed them to the dogs. The liver is great for dirty rice and may be frozen, separately. (Or added to the dog feast!) Pat bird dry, inside and out, with paper towels and place bird in pan. (If using foil pan, place that on top of a sheet tray or similar pan for stability.)
Working in the pan, season the dried inside and outside of the bird well with salt mix. Get down around the wings and legs and thighs. Pat and rub. Leave uncovered or cover loosely with parchment paper. Place in fridge, preferably the old one in the basement, and just leave it alone for up to 3 days. I like 18-24 hours. It will be fine. What you’re aiming for with the timing is that miraculous moment when the skin is crispy, the meat is juicy and tender, and the bird is perfectly salted.
You’re well on the way to the best Thanksgiving feast ever!
On Sunday I’ll be back here with roasting directions for Gorgeous, Juicy (Easy) Turkey!