This post contains affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.
Canadian Thanksgiving is right around the corner and that means delicious turkey! Most complaints about eating turkey is that it’s dry and you need lots of gravy to make up for it. Well, I’m going to teach you how to cook a turkey so it isn’t dry and is delectably delicious, instead!
Depending on your size of turkey, you may need to take it out of the freezer two days before turkey day. Unthawing it in the fridge is the best, but I’ve often unthawed it right on the counter. Again, this depends on the size of the turkey and limited fridge space that just keeps getting limited as you get closer to the holiday.
This particular turkey pictured only needed a day to unthaw. It feeds around 10 people (1 pound per person, but I’m adding in second helpings and big eaters here!) and will leave you with some leftovers.
Contray to belief, you don’t need to wake up at 5:00am to cook a turkey unless you’re going to eat that said turkey at 11:00am. Most smaller turkeys only take 4-5 hours to cook and when I pull out the Big Bertha’s for Christmas, the 23 lb turkey takes about 6 hours. Always use a meat thermometer because it’s easy as fuck and takes the stress and guesswork out of things! You want to make sure your turkey is at least at 170°F and that the juices always run clear.
Put your meat thermometer into the thickest part to get your reading. A leg or wing may say it’s done, but a thigh or breast won’t be fully cooked and ain’t nobody got time for salmonella.
Once your turkey is thawed, or nearly thawed, get rid of any giblets or the neck that may have accompanied your turkey. You can make soup with the neck bone and carcass, if you want! #nowaste
There have been some articles about not washing your turkey. I always, always used to wash my turkeys and chickens because it was always a thing people did. I even had it as the instructions in this post until recently. Then, I didn’t. It tasted so much better when it was cooked with the neck inside and no rinsing! Plus, no bacteria is flying around your kitchen as you wrestle a turkey in the sink. Making the stuffing inside the bird has also become a no-no, and always baffled me that people did. Just take some drippings and add to your stuffing. Done. No stress of shoving stuffing up a turkey.
Brine your turkey for 24 hours before the big event in a delicious brine that will keep it moist! Now, a lot of brines have A LOT of salt in them, even Martha Stewart’s and who am I to argue with that badass bitch? But…I’m going to. Here’s the brine I use with WAY less salt:
10-20 cups of water
1/4 cup of salt. Sea, himalayan, infused sage kosher, you take your pick! (I used infused himalayan sea salt with sage and peppercorns this time around)
1/3 cup of pepper or about 50 turns of your pepper grinder
Sage, rosemary, garlic as desired. If you don’t want a strong taste of any of these three, add a bit of them when you go to cook your turkey.
Cook up your brine until the salt dissolves, then pour over your turkey that should be in a big bowl or casserole dish that can be covered and put into a fridge. I cooked my last turkey at the lake and it sat in a pan until it was ready to be cooked. I also made the brine the day of because of traveling logistics. You don’t have to brine the turkey 24 hours in advance to make it nice and moist and wonderful, but it’ll bring more flavour to it. But, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
The next day, take out your turkey, draining the brine, adding extra spices and butter as desired, and pop it into the oven! Skip the next step and go right to the roasting pan business.
Without brine, take your turkey and plop it into a roaster or roasting pan. For a simple turkey: Add as many gloves of garlic as your heart desires inside the turkey with 2 tbsp of butter and sage or rosemary if you so please. Rub two tbsp of butter onto the turkey, adding salt, pepper, giving your turkey a nice rub down. You’re gonna feel like a creep rubbing your bird (I’ve found it helpful to name them!), but getting it into the skin makes it so much yummier. Add any remaining butter that isn’t rubbed into the skin into the pan, or add a bit of water or extra butter.
If you are using a roasting pan without a lid (like I had to in the above picture due to oven size constraints at the cabin), cover your turkey with tinfoil. Keeping your turkey exposed to the heat will dry it out much quicker. While it’s nice to take the cover off for 5-10 minutes at the end of the cooking for a crispy skin, cooking it exposed will result in a dried out bird.
I’ve never tried, but I’m assuming that if you bast your turkey every 30 minutes and use a brine, it won’t dry it without a lid. That sounds like a lot more work than I’m willing to put into cooking a turkey.
I highly suggest a roasting pan with a lid so you can easily cover your turkey and keep the steam in. You can get a cheap, but durable one at Wal-Mart or if you don’t want to deal with Wal-Mart and people this bad boy will do the trick and will be shipped right to wherever your Amazon packages usually ship.
You don’t need to spend an insane amount of money on a roaster. I’ve been cooking chickens and turkeys in my (extra large) roaster for years and I paid under $50 for it.
Start cooking! Every hour, or so, grab a baster or a spoon and ladle the fat, butter and water onto your turkey. Once it’s cooked, carve up and enjoy the turkey and the compliments.