How to Make the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Time to dust off those turkey-making skills here, they’ll be put into play in less than one week.

Chef Lesli Sommerdorf gets us in the cooking mode.
Roasted Turkey
1 Turkey
2 Tbs softened butter
4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pep
1/2 cup stock

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove giblet bag and neck from turkey, along with any extra internal fat and pin feathers. Rinse well under cold tap water.

Spread 2 tablespoons of softened butter over the skin and sprinkle 4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper over the skin and in the cavity.

Tuck the wing tips under, truss the legs and place the turkey on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan.
Tent the breast with foil and place the turkey in the oven. After about 1 hour, remove the foil and baste the turkey with 1/2 cup stock. Baste the turkey with pan drippings and any remaining stock every 20 minutes. Roast the turkey until the internal thigh temperature reaches 165 degrees, 1 3/4-2 1/4 hours.

Timing the turkey

Using an instant-read thermometer will help ensure that your turkey has cooked thoroughly.
Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the inner side of the thigh (adjoining the drumstick and alongside the breast). It should be near but not touching the bone. The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, no matter the size of the turkey.

The temperature will rise a bit as the turkey rests before carving, which should be anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. It’s helpful to check the temperature of the breast, which should also be 165 degrees. If the breast reaches 165 degrees before the thigh does, cover the breast lightly with foil and continue cooking.

Chez Panisse’s Brine for Turkey
2 1/2 gallons cold water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 bay leaves, in pieces
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
5 whole allspice berries, crushed
4 juniper berries, smashed

Makes 2 1/2 gallons

Use this brine for turkeys 14 pounds and more. The recipe may be halved or doubled; the important thing is to have enough brine to completely cover the turkey.

Place water in unscented garbage bag that can easily hold liquid and turkey. Add all ingredients and stir until sugar and salt dissolve, 1-2 minutes. Add turkey and leave in brine for 24 hours. If turkey floats to the top, use a plate or other weight to keep it completely submerged in brine.

To roast:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter over skin. Sprinkle fresh ground black pepper over skin and in cavity. Tuck wing tips under, loosely truss legs and place turkey on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan. Tent breast with foil. Cook turkey, rotating roasting pan 180 degrees every 30 minutes. Roast for about 1 hour, remove foil and baste turkey with melted unsalted butter. Continue to roast, basting every 20 minutes, using more butter as needed.

Start checking internal temperature after about 1 hour by inserting an instant-read thermometer in the inner meatiest part of the thigh, not touching the bone. If legs or breast begin to get too brown, cover loosely with foil. Roast until internal thigh temperature reaches 165 degrees. Total roasting time for a turkey up to 16 pounds should be about 2 to 2 3/4 hours. Let bird rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carving.

Birds more than 16 pounds: Roast at 350 degrees. Cover the breast tightly with foil for the first half of the cooking time, then remove the foil and baste with broth every 30 minutes for the remainder of the time. An 18-pound bird should be done in 3-4 hours, or when the thigh temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Turkey Rub
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1 fresh turkey (10 to 12 pounds)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 whole lemon, halved
1 red onion, quartered
1 head garlic, halved crosswise

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, add the melted butter, zest and juice of the lemon and 1 teaspoon thyme and sage leaves to the butter mixture. Stir and set aside.

Take the giblets out of the turkey and wash the turkey inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan.

Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion and the garlic. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.

Roast the turkey until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil; let rest for 20 minutes. Slice the turkey and serve.

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