Make the most easy & perfect Thanksgiving turkey recipe with this a-to-z guide. To know how to cook turkey is to understand the procedure from marinating process to cooking temperature and carving method.
Being a turkey roaster (hopefully that's a thing) for years make me realize that the best way to cook a turkey is brining it first then proceed with whatever it is you have in mind. And it's also what this Simply Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey recipe is about. If you want to make the most tender, juicy and moist turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, please keep reading.
What is brine?
Brine is actually a very salty marinade used on meats such as ham or bacon that will be smoked for long preservation. Lean cuts of pork or poultry can also benefit from a light brining before grilling or roasting. Soaking your desired cuts of meat in a brine solution for few hours or overnight helps to increase their moisture retention.
There are two types of brine: wet brine and dry brine. For this roasted whole turkey, we'd rather stick with wet brine method.
The ratio of salt to water for brining a turkey is as follow:
- ½ c or 8 oz Kosher salt per gallon or 128 oz of water
In order to counterbalance the saltiness of a brine liquid, most recipes call for variety of sweeteners, herbs, and citrus ingredients. That said, you'll find lemon, rosemary, thyme, white onion, carrot and celery in this perfect Thanksgiving turkey recipe.
Cooking temperatures and determining doneness of turkey
These are the most common questions when it comes to roasting turkey. This is the master piece of your beloved Thanksgiving dinner gathering so chances are you don't want to mess up the bird. So turkey's cooking temperatures and determining doneness are as follow:
- Temperature - started at high temperature 400*F-425*F (200*C-220*C) to brown the skin, then finished at lower temperature 300*F-325*F (140*C-160*C) to produce a moister bird. Additionally after the temperature is reduced, aluminum foil can also be used to cover the entire turkey breast to avoid it from being overcooked.
- Time - at 325*F or 160*C, it takes 10 - 12 minutes to cook for every lb or 450 gr of turkey. For example, after reduce the heat to 325*F, it'll take approximately 2 to 2.5 hours to finish a 12 lb turkey.
- Doneness - the most accurate way to check whether your turkey is fully done cooking is using an instant read thermometer. I've been using the Kizen thermometer for years from checking frying oil temperature to meat doneness and loving it all the way.
- Use your instant read thermometer and insert in the turkey's thigh, which is the last part to become fully cooked.
- The thermometer should not touch the bone and should read 165*F - 170*F (74*C - 77*C)
Procedure for roasting this Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey recipe
- 3 days before the dinner - thaw your frozen young turkey in refrigerator
- 2 days before the dinner - make brine liquid
- 1 day before the dinner - brine the turkey
- Remember to submerge the turkey completely under the brine liquid
- 4 hours before the dinner - roast turkey:
- Stuff turkey loosely with carrot, white onion, apple, thyme
- Place turkey on a roasting pan, pick the most roomy, durable and non-stick pan for your turkey to avoid uneven cooking and prevent scorching
- Throw some extra thyme, rosemary, carrot, onion on the pan to produce as much aroma as possible
- Roast uncover at high temperature 400*F for 30 minutes
- Reduce the heat to 325*F and keep roasting until fully cooked, basting every 30 minutes, may or may not cover turkey breast area with aluminum foil.
- Let turkey rest from 20-30 minutes before carving - to allow even distribution of juices
Procedure for carving roasted turkey
- After roasting, allow the turkey to rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Hold the turkey firmly with carving fork, carefully steer the leg outward and locate the joint.
- Cut through the joint and remove the leg and thigh in one piece.
- Repeat these steps on the other side of the turkey.
- Slice the meat from the thigh by holding the leg with one hand and slicing parallel to the bone.
- Separate the thigh from the leg by cutting through its joint. Slice the meat from the leg by cutting parallel to the bone.
- Discard the bones or keep them for other usage.
- To remove turkey breast, cut along the backbone by following the curvature of the bones separating the breast from the ribs.
- Repeat these steps on the other half of the breast.
- Slice the meat from the breast at a 45 degree angle to have larger slices.
- Discard the turkey carcass or keep them for other usage.
Roasted turkey sides dish
Your Thanksgiving dinner is not completed until a hand full of amazing sides dish are served. Roasted turkey is very versatile and goes well with almost any side dish.
The most common accompaniments to roasted turkey are potatoes dish. You can go for a classic cheesy parmesan potato au gratin (from Backyard Bohemian), a modern creamy slow-cooked mashed potato (from Hint of Healthy), or a lips smacking candied sweet potato (from Recipes From A Pantry). Or better yet make all of them for this year Thanksgiving dinner, well eventually 2020 is not normal so why settle for less?
Seasoned and grilled vegetables and fruit are also a natural accompaniment. Roasted hassle back butternut squash (from Family Friends Food) not only tastes delicious but also looks amazing. An all-in-one roasted fuyu persimmon with brussels sprouts and Asian pear (from Healthy Feels) is definitely a good pick if you don't have much time on your hand.
Last but not least, treat your kids with a more kid-friendly side dish like this air fryer 2 ways carrot (from This Healthy Kitchen), they will love it.
Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
- Roasting pan with rack
- Aluminum foil (optional)
- A deep hotel pan or a bucket
- Basting brush
- 1 young turkey 12-15lb, giblets removed
- 2 gallon water
- 1 c Kosher salt
- ¼ c light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp black peppercorn
- 2 medium carrot quartered
- 2 medium white onion quartered
- 4 sprig thyme
- 2 sprig rosemary
- 2 medium apples quartered
- 1 medium carrot quartered
- 1 medium white onion quartered
- 1 medium apple quartered
- 2 sprig thyme
- 2 sprig rosemary
- 2 days before Thanksgiving dinner: combine water, sugar, salt, and peppercorn in a large stock pot. Bring to boil. Then let it cool down to room temperature and refrigerate.
- 1 day before Thanksgiving dinner: Add the rest of brine ingredients to the chilled brine liquid. Then submerge the turkey completely under the brine, breast side down. Let the turkey marinade for 1 day. Maximum 2 days.
- A day of the dinner. Pre-heat oven to 400*F.
- Take turkey out of the brine and place on the roasting pan with rack included. Stuff turkey loosely with stuffing ingredients. Throw the any left over on the pan. You can also put them under the turkey (if no rack is available) to prevent uneven cooking.
- Roast at 400*F for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325*F and continue cooking until the internal of the thigh reaches 165*F. Approximately 2 to 2.5 hours. Use basting brush and baste turkey breast with its own liquid every 30 minutes.
- When the turkey is done, remove it from the roasting pan. Discard the stuffing and left over vegetables on the pan. Let the turkey rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Carve the turkey following procedure above. Served with your pick of sides dish (References above).