People are always asking me for my secrets to a perfect Thanksgiving turkey. You’ll be surprised how simple it really can be.
The most important thing to remember is to always buy a fresh, never frozen turkey. Trust me, you won’t regret spending a few extra bucks for a fresh bird – the difference in quality is worth it! You should purchase about one pound of turkey per guest (I always get a little bit extra to ensure plenty of leftovers).
The best way to impart fantastic flavor to turkey while also preserving moisture throughout the cooking process is by using a brine like the one below. A brine is basically a seasoned salt bath used to marinate your turkey before cooking.
Turkey Brine Recipe
- 2 gallons water
- 2 cups Kosher salt
- ½ cup honey
- 12 bay leaves
- 1 cup garlic cloves, skin on, smashed
- ¼ cup black peppercorns, whole
- 6 sprigs Rosemary
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 bunch Italian parsley
- 3 lemons, zest and juice
1) Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover and bring to a boil.
2) Boil for one minute to dissolve the salt.
3) Remove from the heat and cool completely before use.
When you get your fresh turkey home, remove all the innards and rinse under cold water. Submerge the turkey in the cold brine and place it in the refrigerator for 10 hours. When you remove the turkey from the brine, pat it dry, season it with salt and pepper and roast it in an oven-proof roasting bag following the manufacturer’s instructions.
I like to caramelize some mirepoix – carrots, celery and onions or leeks – and put it into the bottom of the bag, place the turkey on top and seal the bag before putting it into a large roasting pan. Make sure to remove the bag for the last half hour of cooking so the skin will brown nicely. Roast until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
Once your turkey is cooked and resting, it’s time to make your gravy. Strain the cooking juices from the turkey into a medium stock pot and skim the fat off the top. Reduce it by half, add a slurry of cornstarch and red wine to thicken it ever so slightly. Taste and adjust seasonings with white pepper and kosher salt and enjoy!