Three Great Thanksgiving & Christmas Turkey TipsFood and Health ·
Thanksgiving and Christmas are by far the most popular times of the year for North Americans to eat turkey. In fact, most producers will do half their yearly business in October, November and December. Here are three great tips for making your turkey cooking experience better. These will ensure that you’ll be calm, relaxed and enjoying your guests instead of reenacting a “Martha Stewart” inspired marathon.
Brine your bird for 12 – 24 hours in advance of beginning to cook to achieve a much richer tasting, moister turkey. Brining is easy; you need a cup of kosher salt, 1 cup of light brown sugar, 1 TBSP each of dried sage, savory, rosemary and thyme, 2 boxes of chicken broth, a gallon of cold water, a 10lb bag of ice and a clean 5 gallon (food grade) bucket. In a pinch, a clean Coleman style cooler will also work. Put everything, (except the ice and the water), in a large pot and bring to a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often to dissolve the sugar and salt. Set aside to cool, stirring as it cools.
Wash the bird inside and out and be sure to remove the giblets and other debris. Add the cooled stock solution to the bucket, then the gallon of cold water, mix well. Submerge the turkey, legs up and make sure the cavity gets filled. This method will work for any bird up to about 20 lbs. Be sure the bird is fully covered with the brine solution, then top up the bucket with ice, chill overnight or up to 24 hours. Remove the bird, pat dry and cook as you usually do until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165F - 170F.
Cook the Turkey in Advance
The biggest time saver of all is to prepare the turkey the day before to lighten the load. When you think about it, that “Norman Rockwell moment” when Dad brings the turkey on a platter to the table to be carved only lasts 5 minutes! Save yourself the stress and cook, then carve the bird the day before, just like they do in restaurants. If your dinner is planned for Sunday evening, cook the turkey first thing Saturday morning so that it’s done by 2pm or so. It can rest for several hours before carving. Carve as you normally do, then place in a large roasting pan in a single layer with a cup of pan drippings. Cover with foil. Refrigerate overnight.
The day of your dinner, reheat at 350F for half an hour with the foil on, and then remove the foil for the last 30 minutes until hot. These times work well for a 12lb – 15lb turkey, adjust as needed for a larger bird.
Use Your BBQ as an Oven
If you’re not able to cook the turkey the day before, use a 2 burner gas BBQ to cook the turkey outside on indirect heat. This frees up your oven to cook or warm everything else. If your BBQ has a thermometer, you want the temperature on the indirect side to be approximately 325F. Place an 8x8 metal dish, three quarters full of hot water directly on the burners, with half of it on the "off" side. Place your turkey in a roasting pan, on the "off" side, prepared the same way as you would for the oven. Cook as you normally would, and remember to rotate the bird every hour for even browning.
Best wishes for a safe, happy and memorable celebration with friends and family.