For years, I was a huge proponent of soaking that big ole turkey in some magic concoction that was supposed to win me some James Beard award, or at least make my turkey worthy of such. Unfortunately, that was never the case, and I spent far too long obsessing as to whether or not the turkey was cool enough in the cooler and whether I was running the risk of subjecting my guests to some food-bourne illness.
And then, I read an LA Times article about dry brining. And life changed. This Food 52 write-up gives a little more info, and I especially love the thought that you don’t even have to thaw your bird out before starting this brining process (which, if you plan on eating on Thursday, it means you want to start the salt process on MONDAY, November 25).
If you have never dry-brined your turkey, you should absolutely give it a shot. Let the taste test the Times did way back when persuade you…I swear it’s worth it!
Turkey will come across your radar at minimum once a year. We gave this recipe a try this Thanksgiving when we spent four days in Tennessee and told my Mom to stay out of the kitchen. You should have seen her. She didn’t know what to do with herself the entire time we were there. Funny thing was that while we were cooking our turkey in the oven, my Dad was outside cooking 86 turkeys for his Sunday school class’s Thanksgiving fundraiser. Needless to say, we had plenty of bird on the table. While we all love the smoked turkeys, my dad went on record saying this preparation was one of the best turkeys he had ever eaten.
Troll through the Internet and you will find many different ways to brine a turkey. Why do we like this dry brine? Sometimes it’s a real challenge to find a cooler or other insulated vessel to put a turkey and all that brining liquid into. And it would likely drive our dogs crazy. Dry brining is great because it uses the moisture content of the turkey itself. The salt pulls the moisture out of the turkey on the first day of dry brining, then the water mixes with some of the salt, then is reabsorbed into the turkey, making for a really tender but not mushy meat.
As for determining servings and how big of a turkey you should get, figure on 1 1/2 pounds of turkey (this includes the carcass weight) per person if you want leftovers.
- 1 10 to 20-pound (5–9 kg) fresh or frozen whole turkey, neck and giblets removed from cavity
- 2–4 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 2 small onions, quartered
- 2 medium apples, peeled and cored, cut into medium slices
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1⁄2 bunch flatleaf parsley
- 1⁄2 cup (110 g) butter
- 1 cup (250 mL) water
- 1 cup (250 mL) white wine (optional)
72 hours before cooking
- Rinse the turkey under cold water and pat dry. Rub with kosher salt including into cavities where possible.
- Wrap the bird in a large plastic bag and place in the refrigerator, taking time to massage salt into skin on day 2.
24 hours before cooking
- Turn over the turkey in the refrigerator.
A few hours before cooking
- Remove the turkey from the bag and pat dry. Place in a roasting pan and allow to come to room temperature. Sprinkle half the black pepper into chest cavity adding half the onions/apples and all of the thyme/parsley. The remaining onions/apples can go in the neck cavity. Tie the legs up with twine and tuck the neck skin under.
- Rub as much of the bird with butter as possible (under skin and onto thighs). Sprinkle remaining black pepper on exterior of bird and place in 450°F (235°C) oven for about 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350°F (175°C). Cover breast and wings with one big sheet of foil. Pour water and white wine into roasting pan and return to oven for about 2–3 hours or until an in- stant-read thermometer inserted into the breast reads 170°F (75°C). Good rule of thumb is to cook 15 minutes per pound of bird.
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