Want to learn how to cook the perfect Thanksgiving Day Turkey? It’s rather easy with our step-by-step Thanksgiving Day Turkey techniques. Additionally, we’re sharing Martha Stewart’s Perfect Roast Turkey tips and recipes. Bon appétit!
Step One – Thaw and clean your turkey: The best way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. As other methods like leaving it out on the counter or running cold water over it means you run the risk of contaminating the kitchen. This is where you will have to plan ahead. Allow for 30 minutes per pound in the fridge. If you forget until the night before, you can do the cold water trick in a pinch. Secure the turkey in a plastic bag and submerge in cold water; just make sure to change the water every half hour.
Step Two – Take out the neck and giblets: While you won’t want these with your actual turkey, the neck and giblets can add an excellent flavor to your gravy.
Step Three – Butter that bird. Everywhere. Slather the entire skin and gently separate the skin of the breast so that you can spread more under the skin, over the breast meat. Generously salt and pepper the bird, including the cavity and add your favorite aromatic herbs and vegetables to the cavity. Onions, apples, sage, thyme: this is your time to be creative. Herbs placed under the breast skin will flavor the meat as well as show through the crackling golden skin when the bird is finished.
Step Four – Cook your bird at the proper temperature: In order to avoid contamination, all poultry should be cooked at a temperature of 325 degrees F or higher. For turkey, your oven temperature will be based on your cooking method:
– 325 degrees – traditional oven pan
– 450 degrees – foil-wrapped turkey
– 350 degrees – oven cooking bag
– 325-350 degrees – charcoal grill
Check in on your turkey every once and a while as it cooks and baste or spoon some of the drippings back over the bird. All that butter will reward you with a brown, crackling skin and moist flavorful meat.
For a moist and tender turkey that is cooked through, the optimum temperature on your meat thermometer should read 165 degrees. Remember, like all meat, your turkey will continue to cook for a bit while it rests (which allows the juices to run back into the meat.) Let the bird rest out of the oven for about a half an hour before you carve, so that the juices remain in the meat and not all over your cutting board.
Also, Martha Stewart has a recipe for a traditional roast turkey that includes brining the bird for 24 hours.
Martha Stewart’s Perfect Roast Turkey
Serves 12 to 14
3 cups coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
5 cups sugar
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 dried bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, plus freshly ground pepper
1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 pounds), rinsed and patted dry, giblets and neck reserved for gravy
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted, plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
Crab apples, fresh rosemary sprigs, and fresh sage, for garnish (optional)
1. Put salt, sugar, onions, leeks, carrots, celery, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, and 10 cups water in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring until salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat; let brine cool completely.
2. Add turkey, breast first, to the brine. Cover; refrigerate 24 hours. Remove from brine; pat dry with paper towels. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Stir together melted butter and wine in a medium bowl. Fold a very large piece of cheesecloth into quarters so that it is large enough to cover breast and halfway down sides of turkey. Immerse cloth in butter mixture; let soak.
4. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack set in a roasting pan. Fold wing tips under turkey. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper inside turkey. Loosely fill body and neck cavities with stuffing. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Fold neck flap under; secure with toothpicks. Rub turkey all over with softened butter; season with salt and pepper.
5. Remove cheesecloth from butter mixture, squeezing gently into bowl. Reserve butter mixture for brushing. Lay cheesecloth over turkey. Place turkey, legs first, in oven. Roast 30 minutes. Brush cheesecloth and exposed turkey with butter mixture. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Roast, brushing every 30 minutes, 2 1/2 hours more; cover with foil if browning too quickly. If making gravy, add giblets and neck to pan 1 1/2 hours after reducing temperature; roast 30 minutes, and reserve.
6. Discard cheesecloth; rotate pan. Baste turkey with pan juices. Roast, rotating pan halfway through, until skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees and stuffing reaches 165 degrees, about 1 hour. Transfer to a platter. Set pan with drippings aside for gravy. Let turkey stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes. Garnish, if desired.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking the turkey until the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees. For a moister bird, we cooked ours to 165 degrees; it will continue to cook outside the oven as it rests.
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.