Thanksgiving turkey – for some, it is the centerpiece of a delightful thanksgiving day full of warm memories and family bonding. For others, it is the sad, dry, even disappointing result of a recipe that never seems to turn out right. With so many recipes, cooking methods, and potential for mistakes, cooking a whole turkey can be a daunting task, let alone cooking a whole turkey that actually tastes good. Today we’re going to go over our favorite tricks and explain the science of why they work so well.
Tip 1 – Start with the right Turkey
As you already know, we care deeply about the quality of the ingredients we use in our foods. The better building blocks you have to start with, the better the outcome will be of your finished product. Picking up a high-quality bird for your thanksgiving feast will already give you a leg up for a delicious centerpiece.
What do we mean by ‘high quality?’ Mostly we mean buying a fresh turkey, not a frozen turkey. Freezing a turkey can cause tiny ice crystals to form around cells, causing the meat to dry out more during the cooking process. Fresh turkeys will generally retain that moisture, which is going to help keep the meat nice and juicy. Fresh turkeys are also generally fed a better diet, are often raised free-range, and are often organic and antibiotic-free. We believe all of these qualities result in a better turkey for your table.
Tip 2 – Brine Brine Brine
If you’re going to do anything to improve your turkey recipe this year, you should add brine to the process. Rub it with a dry brine, and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours (or up to 24 hours) OR brine the turkey in a liquid brine for 12 – 24 hours.
What does brining do? Surprisingly a lot. First off, the salt in a brine helps to break down some of the muscle proteins in the meat, stopping it from contracting as much as it’s cooked, and the result is more tender meat that hasn’t squeezed out its own moisture. The second big benefit comes from the process of osmosis, where the salt first pulls moisture out of the meat, but over time as the meat and brine stabilize, the brine then begins to penetrate the semi-permeable cell walls of the meat reintroducing moisture back into the cell that will remain there to keep the meat nice and juicy while it cooks. Dry brine and wet brine both work the same way, but we personally prefer a wet brine for our birds. Regardless of which method you use, ALWAYS keep the bird refrigerated as it brines, and be sure to only brine for the recommended size for your bird. Over-brining is a thing, and trust us when we say it’s not something you want to experience yourself.
Tip 3 – Dry after brine
This one is mostly for anyone who went with the wet-brine method, AND if you still want that heavenly crispy skin. Once you’ve finished the 12-24 hour wet brine, remove the turkey from the liquid, and put it back in the fridge to ‘dry’ for another 24 hours. This helps give more time for the salt and moisture it absorbed during the brine to be thoroughly dispersed throughout the whole bird, and allows the skin to get crispy and golden in the final stages of roasting.
Tip 4 – The warm-up
Before your turkey goes in the oven, we recommend allowing it to come up to room temperature first. Obviously don’t leave it out for hours, but just long enough that it’s not fridge-cold. This allows the turkey to cook more evenly since the internal temperature and the exterior temperature won’t be so far apart once the bird makes it to the oven.
Tip 5 – Butter bath
Our favorite method for getting that perfect golden crispy skin is slathering butting UNDER the turkey skin before it goes in the oven. You want an even coast as if you were applying suntan lotion at the beach. If you really want to step it up, mix some fresh herbs in the butter before you get to slathering. This is a wonderful way to infuse some flavor into your thanksgiving feast.
Tip 6 – Trust us, don’t truss
This one is based on our experience and may depend on what kind of oven you’re cooking in. Personally, we prefer to not truss our turkeys (tying the legs together) We find that our turkeys cook more evenly when the legs are not tied, and the heat has a better chance of circulating around the whole bird.
Tip 7 – Treat your bird to a sauna
We recommend raising your turkey off the bottom of your roasting dish with a rack to help again with even circulation of air. But don’t leave the roasting dish empty, through some broth in there! Not only does this help create a moist environment for the turkey to cook in, but it also provides a flavorful head start if you’re planning on turning the drippings into the gravy (who are we kidding, of course, you are).
Tip 8 – Patience is key
No matter how hungry your guests are, it is imperative that you allow the bird to rest for 30 minutes once it comes out of the oven. Cutting into it too early will allow some of that moisture we’ve worked so hard to evaporate as steam or pool out into a big puddle on the serving platter. When you let the turkey rest, you allow that heat to dissipate and the meat will retain more of that moisture where it’s supposed to be, evenly distributed throughout the whole bird.
And there you have it, our top tips for roasting the perfect thanksgiving turkey. We know everyone has their favorite methods, and everyone has their own preferences for what they’re looking for in a roast. But for us, this process results in a juicy succulent bid that’s full of flavor, with a crispy golden skin that you’ll be dreaming about all year long. the process in time-consuming, but we promise it’s worth it.
No time for cooking this year?
Hey, we get it. Time is a commodity and every second is worth treasuring. And we absolutely get that not everyone loves cooking as much as we do (there’s a reason we own and operate a restaurant after all) If you’re short on time, or if you’d rather enjoy a day relaxing with your family rather than work in the kitchen, we applaud you for recognizing that and we would love to take care of the cooking for you.
Enjoy a delicious and unforgettable holiday feast without sacrificing your time and without all the fuss of cooking but ordering from our seasonal holiday menu. Whether you’re looking to go all out with a whole turkey or ham and all the fixings, or if you’re looking for something a little smaller for a smaller gathering, we’ve got you covered.
Check out the full holiday menu HERE, and be sure to get your pre-orders in before the deadline passes.