3 Secrets to Great Roast Turkey – 2011

by Nancy on November 16, 2011

Updated November 2011

If you’re like me you’ve probably been doing the turkey thing for more years than you care to remember with varying results. Over the past ten years I’ve discovered 3 secrets to making great turkey and I guarantee using even one of them will significantly improve your results.

1. Brine the turkey. Brining makes your turkey moist and improves the flavor. The easiest way is to use a cooler. Wash the cooler well, fill with 3 gallons of water and 1 1/2C. of table salt. Add your defrosted turkey, cover with ice bags, close lid, soak for 6-12 hours. New trick: Whole Foods will brine your turkey for no extra charge. I can not begin to tell you how happy this makes me!!!!

2. Use a meat thermometer. I had a Polder Original All-in-One Timer/Thermometer.  You stick the probe into the meaty part of your turkey, set the temperature you’d like it to cook to and voila, the timer beeps at you when your bird is done. No more pulling the turkey in and out of the oven.

And Another New Thermometer (arrgh:) I melted my Polder original (don’t ask) and bought a new Polder last Thanksgiving.  It had too many bells and whistles. I struggled to figure out how to set it and then it stopped working.

In shopping for a new one I learned several new meat thermometers have preprogrammed settings for meat based on the USDA recommendations. Don’t buy one if you don’t have the option to set your own temperature. Roasted meats rise in temperature after you take them out of the oven.  If your meat cooks to the recommended USDA temperature in the even and then you take it out to rest, your meat will end up overcooked.

After taking way too much time researching new meat thermometers, I’ve decided to buy a ThermoWorks Original Cooking Thermometer. I’ll let you know how it goes.

3. Don’t roast the turkey whole. It’s virtually impossible to cook the white and dark meat perfectly on a whole bird. My go-to recipe is “Julia’s Deconstructed Turkey,” from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home which I’ve been using since 1999. It takes a bit of prep on the front end, which includes removing the backbone, and separating the thigh/leg from the breast. (Extra hidden bonus secret #4: buy your turkey at Whole Foods and they will do it for you.)

(Note: When I first wrote this article in 2009 Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home was out of print. Happily it’s now available. If you get a copy be sure and try Jacque’s recipe for Chocolate Roulade.

4. If you are making gravy I have to let you in on extra hidden bonus secret #5: Cooks Illustrated graciously made their fat separator reviews open to readers. I’ll be checking out their top pick, The Trudeau Gravy Separator with Integrated Strainer along with the OXO Good Grips 4C  Fat Separator which has great reviews on Amazon.

P.S. Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home is a worthy consideration for your library shelf. If you don’t want to take my word for it read the many thoughtful reviews on Amazon.

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