If anything makes the average cook dread the holiday season, it is the long, tedious task of preparing and brining, baking, basting that huge bird everyone wants to eat but nobody seems to be able to make well. I literally never eat turkey anyone else has prepared.
The reason? I like white meat and it seems that no matter what people say they did to the poor bird, when it makes it’s way to the table, that part is dry as the Mojave desert.
Wanna know why? The fat in birds is found primarily in the darker parts of the meats. That’s right, it tastes richer, and holds juices more easily, because there is a ton of fat in it to seal in juices and also to separate the muscle fibers; This is also why it is usually more tender than white meat.
I have a few tips to alleviate this that you’re going to love.
Let’s start with the most important piece of equipment you need for a successful turkey-roasting adventure:
- THE ROASTING PAN
While it is convenient to buy the soft aluminum disposable pans you can cover with foil at grocery stores, those cannot hold up to the beating I am about to tell you to give them, and frankly are a waste of money and resources. (Also have you tried to remove those from the oven while hot? This can be disastrous!)
What you want is either a stainless roasting pan with a lid, OR (my personal favorite) a good old fashioned porcelain-coated oval black roasting pan like good old Grandma used to use.
My turkey was so big the lid did not even close and it was still super juicy and tender, so scoff if you like, but it’s time to hang up those wasteful turkey bags. Once you try this, you will be a believer.
Next in line is something which is a farce for cooking them:
Most recipes will tell you that about 350* is the perfect roasting temp. for a turkey, but we all know how long this takes, usually a few hours per lb of meat. Now I don’t know about you, but I prefer to not be tired of turkey BEFORE I even take the first bite!
Higher temperatures yield two results:
- Faster cooking times
- More juices locked INSIDE your bird where they belong!
I roasted mine at 500* for 2 hours and fifteen minutes, and as you can see from the photo, it was literally falling off the bone, and the skin was perfectly crisp and browned, and not burned in the least. The trick really is in the pan, which serves as a convection and self-basting device.
This is the same concept as bags or foil but the best advice I can offer is to not peek until you are pretty sure it is done, as this lets heat and moisture escape.
Now that we covered the basics, let’s get to the best part:
- THE BRINE or MARINADE
You can use anything you like, some people prefer to brine ahead and marinate the turkey for a few days.
I use the following method:
Place turkey in roasting pan breast-down. (Don’t worry about skin for all you skin lovers, the back skin works just as well as the breast does!)
Pour one 2-liter bottle of Sierra Mist over the turkey. Pour 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil over turkey skin, making sure to cover all areas that are exposed to air.
Dust this exposed skin with sea salt, cracked black pepper, marjoram, and parsley, and cover with lid, trying to close and seal lid as much as possible.
Place in oven heated to 450*-500* F, and roast for 2-3 hours, or until meat is falling off the bone.
It’s that easy! No basting, no waiting, because once your sides are finished so is the turkey. Best to make pies and breads ahead, and heat them right before serving, since turkeys take up most of the average oven’s available free space.
Hopefully this takes the angst out of turkey preparation for your holiday season. The result is tender, juicy, amazingly sweet breast meat you will be lucky to have leftovers from.
Another parting tip:
Before making your gravy with the broth under the bird, save aside about two to three cups for the serving dish.
Just simply pour this over the sliced turkey before setting it on the table, it soaks into the meat and makes it stay tender and super juicy.
If you use a serving plate, simply slice the turkey, then place in a casserole dish and pour the juice over it. Leave it in this dish and take as-needed to out on the serving plate. It will still be juicy but the juice will stay mostly in the kitchen and not on the plate.
Happy Holidays to all, from my family to yours!