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Isn’t she a beauty! It’s taken me years, and a lot of dry turkey, to finally create the World’s BEST THANKSGIVING TURKEY recipe! It is truly the BEST! And I’ll tell you why…
There are several different, and important, elements that go into making this bird brilliant!
I remember the first time I made a Turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. I was terrified! Absolutely TERRIFIED! I don’t want any cooks, experienced or new, out there to go through the same thing. So… I’m going to walk you through my recipe for the Best Thanksgiving Turkey, step-by-step!
*Note… make the brine early in the morning so it has time to “cool” to room temperature
In a large stock pot add 6 Quarts, or 1 1/2 gallons, of water. Add 1 1/2 cups of coarse kosher salt. Place over high heat. Bring to a boil, and boil for 15-20 minutes until salt is dissolved.
Add 2 Cups of Apple Cider and 1 1/2 cups of Orange juice, with or without pulp. Either is fine for this recipe.
Add 2 teaspoons dried thyme, and 2 teaspoons of crushed rosemary . Stir well. (That’s the shortest direction you’ll get in this post! lol)
Add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of whole Allspice. Stir. (I lied…that’s the shortest direction you’ll get in this post!) Allow brine to cool to room temperature.
While the brine is cooling it’s the perfect time to start what I like to call , so I do… “WWE Thanksgiving Wrestle Mania”! (Honestly I don’t think there is anything harder to wrestle than a 22-23 pound slick Turkey! It’s like they’re still fighting for one last chance at life! Dude…it’s over! Let the Roasting begin!)
Place the Turkey in a VERY large bowl or in your kitchen sink. (I prefer the sink…one less bowl to wash.)
I’m going to state the obvious…remove the plastic wrap! (It’s not Turkey Spandex…it needs to come off and you’re gonna have to touch that birds bare naked skin!)
Now for the fun!!! See that Turkey’s “Buttock hole”…Yep…you’re going in there! Reach on in and pull that neck outta there. (See…some Turkey’s do have their heads up their butt! lol!!! Hope you weren’t drinking when you read that line…sorry about your phone if you just spewed!)
Next…find where the neck used to be before that Turkey got too big for his britches! See that paper sticking out…he didn’t swallow that! Yep…you’re going in again!
Grab a hold of that paper and give it a good “yank”… that fun little package holds all the vital organs.
Now some folks like to use those in their stuffing. I’m not one of those people! Bye-bye little package of organs.
Now that all the inside parts have been removed…rinse the Turkey well inside and out. Place Turkey on a large clean dish towel and pat dry.
TIP: Now for the BIG tip on brining! Every time I watched a video on brining a turkey they would place the turkey in this HUGE bucket and then place it in the refrigerator. I don’t know about your nest…but mine didn’t come with a walk-in cooler!
So I came up with this brilliant…if I do say so myself…alternative. It’s called an Ice Chest!
Take two tall kitchen bags and double them. Place the Turkey in the Bag and add a sprig or two of fresh sage.
Place the Turkey in the bag inside a large Ice Chest.
You’ll need a helper for this next step. One person to hold the bag open, while the other pours the cooled brine over the Turkey.
TIP: DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF THINKING YOU CAN DO THIS ALONE! It’s been tried…and it isn’t pretty my friends! (If you enjoy a self-brine and mopping…you can do this alone…otherwise…ask for help!)
Pull the bag up to see how far the brine comes up and over the Turkey. If the brine doesn’t completely cover the turkey, add more water.
TIP: You can place the Turkey Breast side down. n fact I recommend it. It helps the brine to soak into the breast meat. For the sake of photos I left it breast side up.
Tie bag in a tight knot. Notice as the bag pulls tight, the liquids come up and surround the bird better than when the bag is open.
Cover with ice! Lots of Ice. You’ve just created your own little brining cooler! Leave to soak for 18-20 hours.
Do a few push-ups…lift a few weights…that Turkey has just put on an extra 5 pounds! If you have never brined a Turkey you will be shocked how much brine can be absorbed into the meat of the Turkey.
Lift bag out of ice chest and take it over to the sink. Place a drain catcher in the drain to catch the whole Allspice seeds. You don’t want them down your garbage disposal.
Before you remove the Turkey out of the brine be sure to have your “prep” area ready to go!
If you’re stuffing your Turkey prepare the stuffing and have it ready to go. Have string or Poultry lace pins ready to go to close openings. Heavy Metal Roasting pan with rack.
TIP: I lined my rack with parchment paper with slits so cleaning my rack would be easier.
Have a large towel on your work area to catch-all any remaining liquid from the Turkey.
TIP: I use the pan out of my electric portable Roasting Oven. It’s the perfect size for just about any Turkey. The enamel coating makes clean-up a breeze too. I’m a believer that everyone should own an electric roasting oven. I even bought one for my daughter right after she got married. Check out my favorite brand HERE it’s the one I’ve used for years.
Using scissors cut the top off the bag.
Time for a “rematch” of Wrestle Mania! Remove Turkey from sack and rinse turkey. Some of the herbs will stick to the turkey. That ‘s perfect! We just want to rinse that Allspice off the turkey and out of the crevasses. No one needs a cracked tooth for Thanksgiving!
Place washed Turkey on large towel in your work area. Pat dry. Flip Turkey over and dry the back.
There’s a lot of controversy over to “stuff” or “not stuff” your Turkey. I’m a stuffer!
Most agree it’s best not to stuff your turkey. That’s fine. I actually do both because of the amount of stuffing I make. I love the flavor and moisture my stuffing has from being cooked inside the Turkey! Technically stuffing cooked in a casserole dish is “dressing” and not stuffing! (Just some helpful cooking triva!)
The important thing to remember is the stuffing needs to be freshly made and warm when stuffed inside the bird. Fill cavities loosely with as much stuffing as they hold comfortably; do NOT pack too tightly.
With the Turkey on it’s back you can stuff the neck opening by peeling the extra flap of skin back. Stuff the hole, but remember not too tightly.
Pull skin back over stuffing towards the back bones of the Turkey.
Using a Poultry Lace Pin, Pin the skin down to the back, or you can tie bakers twine around the skin flap and around the front.
I love my Poultry Lace Pins. They’re strong & sturdy and have lasted me for years. I’ve had a hard time finding them in stores, so if you’re interested here’s a link to the same set I’m using. Click HERE to check them out!
Carefully flip the Turkey over.
Slide your hand under the skin of one side of the breast and loosen it from the meat. Repeat on the opposite side. (We’re getting very intimate with this Turkey! It can be a little disgusting…just don’t think about it!)
Once the skin is loosened on both sides, place 4-6 Tablespoons of softened butter under the skin on both sides! Be careful not to tear the skin. You just want to slide those pats of butter right under the skin.
If the legs of your turkey are not held together with extra skin, tie them together before stuffing the stomach cavity. This is a good time to fold the wing tips back and under the Turkey.
Using a large spoon, or your hands (I mean they’ve been every where at this point), if you’re going to stuff the bird, loosely stuff the cavity of the Turkey. (I can’t wait to share my sausage stuffing with ya’ll…it’s life changing!)
Place Turkey Breast side up on roasting rack in heavy metal roasting pan.
Take a roll of cheesecloth and cut it the length of the Turkey. Repeat 4 times. You’ll need 4 strips of cheesecloth long enough to cover the entire length of the turkey. It doesn’t have to completely cover the legs of the turkey, but should go at least half way down the sides of the bird.
Open up each strip of cheesecloth and lay one strip on top of the other. Lay stacked Cheesecloth on top of Turkey and cover the entire turkey with the cheesecloth. (I like to think of it as his little blanket to keep him toasty while roasting!)
Make sure it covers the entire top half of the Turkey!
Add 4 cups of water to bottom of the pan!
Why are we adding water? For the first 3 hours of bake time we are going to be basting with Wine and a Pound of Butter under high heat. It will burn in the bottom of the pan, like butter tends to do, without some sort of liquid in the bottom of the pan.
NOTE: You will be adding water through out the cooking of this turkey so that you’ll have enough drippings to create an amazing gravy that will not need to have the “fat” drained off. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THERE IS LIQUID IN THE BOTTOM OF THE PAN.
This is my favorite part of this recipe! Single most important element for the magnificent gravy that is to follow. Plus…you will get a perfectly golden turkey every time!
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt 1 pound of salted butter. I know! That’s a LOT of butter. Seriously? Are we counting calories at Thanksgiving dinner? NO we are NOT! Tom gave his life for us…the least we can do is pay him the respect he deserve by slathering him in wine and butter!
Speaking of wine…most of you know we are a “dry” nest and don’t drink alcohol. However, I love the benefits of cooking with itl. It took a lot of trial and error for me to find the perfect wine for this basting wine butter. (It’s not easy when you can’t taste test!)
I finally hit on it last year when I stumbled on this beautiful bottle of Vendange Chardonnay with it’s fruity hints of pear and apple with toasted oak!
Did you see that fly by? Yep…we hit it out of the ball park with this one my friends! I seriously bought this because of the flavors it boasted. I didn’t have one taste while cooking. I just reveled in the benefits of its beautiful blend after the fact.
You are going to add 6 cups, or 1 750-ml bottle, of dry white wine into your butter as it is melting! (See why my Turkeys like me! I stuff’em, give them a blanket, and a lot too drink!)
Using a ladel carefully spoon butter and wine mixture over cheesecloth.
Do NOT use all the butter and wine mixture. You should have enough leftover for two to three bastings.
Make sure entire cheesecloth is covered in butter and wine mixture.
Place rack in oven on the very last level. Preheat oven to 400°. Cook for 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush or baster, baste cheesecloth and any exposed parts of the turkey with butter and wine mixture.
TIP: If your roasting pan only fits sideways in the oven, turn the pan every hour so the turkey cooks and browns evenly.
Reduce oven temperature to 350°, continue to cook for 2 more hours basting every 30 minutes and watching pan juices. You may need to add water to the pan at each basting depending on how much of your liquid has evaporated during cooking.
TIP: If you run out of butter and wine mixture continue to baste with pan drippings over cheesecloth.
At third hour mark baste again, this will help loosen the cheesecloth, then gently remove cheesecloth using tongs to pull it back. Be careful! It will be very HOT!
Place Turkey back in oven and continue to baste every 30 minutes. Skin will become fragile as it browns so baste carefully.
At fourth hour of cooking, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Do not poke a bone. The temperature should reach 180° (stuffing should be between 140° and 160°) and the turkey should be golden brown.
Breast does not need to be checked for temperature. If legs are not fully cooked, baste turkey, and continue cooking another 20-30 minutes.
When fully cooked, give the “Hulk” a call and have him come transfer Turkey to serving platter or cutting board and let rest for about 30 minutes. The resting time allows the juices to settle back down into the meat!
Now to be honest I never serve my Thanksgiving Turkey on a platter like this! It is very classic Norman Rockwell.
Mine is carved in the Kitchen and brought to the table carved and ready to feed the starving beasts at my table! It’s just so much easier when feeding a crowd…and I love having my Thanksgiving table full of those I love ready to dig in!
It sure does look pretty though all spruced up on this platter with fruits and herbs!
I should have tucked his wings under…but I got so excited! There is just nothing better than the smell of this Turkey cooking in your kitchen! It’s truly splendid! They can’t make a air freshner that could smell any better… or warm your heart as much as a turkey roasting.
TIP: I remove the stuffing before Mr. Nest starts carving Ol’ Tom up…and add it to the other stuffing that has been cooking in the crock pot. If you remember, I did mention that I make too much stuffing to stuff in the Turkey. I place the remaining in a slow cooker on low and when the Turkey is done, I add the extra moist stuffing from the turkey to the dryer stuffing in the crock pot. It works out perfectly.
I wish I could give each of you a taste of this luscious Turkey! I can truly say that I’ve never had a better Turkey in all my life and it was worth all the failures to finally find success!
The breast meat, which tends to be dry in a lot of other Turkey recipes, truly is so moist it cuts with a fork and melts in your mouth!
The subtle savory explosion of complimentary flavors from the brine and the butter wine mixture is divine!
If you’ll follow my step-by-step instructions you will “WOW” your guest this Thanksgiving with the BEST Thanksgiving Turkey they’ve ever had! Add my scrumptious sides, including my homemade sausage stuffing, and fantastic desserts and you’ll have a feast fit for a king!
I’m sharing this beauty over on two of my favorite foodie parties…Meal Plan Monday Click on the link to join the fun!
PIN IT FOR LATER
I hope this Holiday Season brings you Joy, Love, and Laughter around your dinning room table and that your Nest will be filled with too many blessings to count!
Thank You for Stopping by my Nest. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can.
The preparation time of this Turkey includes an 18 hour brine time.
A 20-22 lbs stuffed Turkey will take approx. 4-5 hours to cook. Always use a instant-read thermometer to check temperature of Turkey.
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