Deep-fried, slow roasted, boiled — yes, boiled — or grilled. Whatever the cooking process, I am a huge fan of turkey!
I often hear that turkey is “boring” or “dry and tasteless," but I disagree. It always comes down to the quality of the meat and the cooking process. My secret for a great tasting Thanksgiving turkey? It’s all about the brine.
Brine is a simple solution of water, sugar, salt and spices. This technique has the benefit of breaking down the protein strands in the meat and the water is absorbed into the muscles. The liquid is expelled during the cooking process, leaving you with a delicious, juicy bird.
When selecting a turkey, choose a good quality, fresh turkey. A frozen turkey will work as well, but you'll need to allow three to four days for the turkey to thaw in the refrigerator.
A 10- to 12-pound turkey can feed eight to 10 people and may allow for leftovers — think turkey salad sandwiches for Black Friday.
Here’s a simple turkey recipe.
2 gallons water 2 cups brown sugar (or sugar of your choice) 2 cups kosher salt ½ tablespoon whole black peppercorns 10 dried bay leaves 1 bunch fresh thyme (or dried) 1 tablespoon fresh sage (or dried) 2 tablespoons granulated garlic 2 tablespoons granulated onion 1 lemon, cut in half
- In a large pot, add water and all other ingredients except the turkey and bring to boil. Let the liquid cool for 30 minutes.
- From the refrigerator, take turkey out of the packaging, remove the neck and bag with organs from the body cavity. Rinse well and pat dry.
- With a small knife, make small incisions around the entire bird, puncturing through the skin and into the muscle. This will ensure the meat is infused with brine.
- Place turkey in a separate large container that is deep enough for the turkey to be submerged in the brine as it marinates.
- Once it has cooled, pour the brine mixture over turkey and let it marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days in a refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 335°F.
- Remove the turkey from the brine, pat dry and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to placing it in oven. Rub olive oil and kosher salt on the skin of the entire bird.
- Place the turkey in an oven-proof roasting pan and cook it for 3 to 3½ hours or until the internal temperature has reached 160°F.
During the roasting process, near the 3-hour mark, check the internal temperature often. Once it hits 160°F, take it out and allow the bird to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. The turkey will continue to cook outside of the oven, which will allow it to hit the required 165°F temperature. This method will also ensure that the internal juices distribute evenly and will make carving easier.
Massimo De Francesca is the executive chef at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.