Every year I host Thanksgiving dinner. My first dinner was when I was in my early 20’s. My friend Ken and I lived in a tiny apartment and hosted what would be the first of many Thanksgiving dinners. We did not even have a dining room. We rented a big round table and 15 chairs and put together a make shift dining room by removing all the furniture and piling it up on the back porch of the apartment building. We cooked up a turkey and all sorts of food. That dinner is a wonderful memory for me.
As I was preparing to make the turkey for our website I was about 10 steps into what has become automatic for me before I realized that I better start writing down what I was doing, so I can relay it to you. Over the years, I have honestly tried every variation of making a turkey that you can possibly imagine. I have found a method that works incredibly well and delivers a beautiful, moist bird with a crisp evenly browned skin and wonderful flavors that are incorporated in every bite.
The trick I found that works the best is brining the turkey. There are as many ways to brine a turkey, as there are methods for roasting a turkey. My first attempt at brining a bird called for a lot of salt. I mean a lot of salt. Having never made a brine before, I tried the brine in the recipe exactly the way it dictated. I followed the directions exactly. The result was a very juicy turkey that was well, salty. I kind of knew going in that would probably be the case.
There are some wonderful recipes out there for brine but what I use is a combination of rosemary, garlic, fennel, bay leaves, peppercorns, sugar and salt. I use a cup for cup ratio of sugar and salt, so if I use 1 cup of salt, I use 1 cup of sugar. The exactness of the other spices in the recipe is up to you. It can get expensive buying all the ingredients for the brine if you don’t have them on hand.
There are many ready-made brines out there that are certified gluten free. The brine you choose will also depend on your taste. I love the garlic-rosemary blend but some people prefer the allspice-orange type brine. Check the ingredients and make sure that you like the spices; your bird is going to taste like the ingredients in the brine you pick. The point is that you find something that works for you and use it to brine the bird.
You must make sure the bird is completely defrosted before you can brine. Please know that store-bought (commercially prepared) turkeys have a high sodium content. I use fresh, organic turkeys. Remove all the giblets and neck from the inside of the bird, and rinse the turkey really well, inside and out. Bring the brine to a boil and let cool. You need a receptacle to submerge your bird in the brine. I use a big plastic bucket. You can use a brining bag or a cooler. Put the turkey and brine in and fill the receptacle enough to cover the bird. Put the lid on and put it in the fridge. You must keep the bird at 40º or below. Brine the turkey overnight, about 8-12 hours.
Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well. I rub a spice blend of butter and equal parts of marjoram, thyme and sage all over the bird. For the sake of time, I cut up leek, celery, the giblets and neck and scatter them all over the bottom of the roasting pan and then cover it all with chicken or turkey stock. It makes awesome gravy later.
Roast the turkey in a roasting pan with a rack at 400º breast side down for 1 hour. Take the turkey out of the oven and carefully turn the turkey over so it is breast side up, baste well. Lower the temperature of the oven to 350º and roast until internal temp is 165º for breast meat and 175º for dark meat. I baste the turkey about every forty-five minutes to one hour. If the breast is starting to get too well done you can tent the turkey with foil to keep the skin from burning.
Brining your Thanksgiving turkey requires a little work before the day you cook it, but trust me, it is well worth the extra effort for a flavorful, moist turkey.
To find delicious gluten free ideas for your Thanksgiving holiday meals, please visit our recipe page.