Thanksgiving is just a few days away! It’s one of my favorite holidays, but it can be incredibly stressful if you are hosting. The timing of getting everything on the table can be a challenge, especially when you are working out of a NYC apartment! I have hosted several Friendsgiving gatherings where everyone contributed a dish, but this will be my first time hosting the entire Thanksgiving myself. There will be 4 of us and I want to keep all the tradition that everyone loves.
I follow a completely vegetarian diet, so I know what you’re thinking… What crazy “tofurkey” dish will I feed my guests? You’ll never guess. A REAL whole TURKEY! That’s right! Over the past few years I have developed a fool proof method of roasting a turkey that I don’t even have to taste to know that it is delicious, succulent, and juicy. It’s so easy, a vegetarian can do it 😉
I start with a frozen 12-14 pound turkey and then I dry brine my bird to conserve precious fridge space. Dry brines are a great way to infuse your meat with flavor and you can customize them any way you want. I listed my personal favorite, and the most traditional below, but any flavors you like work well. (Try experimenting with brown sugar, citrus, and cardamom for a more heavy, robust flavor!) I love a dry brine, as opposed to the very popular wet brine, because it does a better job, in a shorter amount of time, and is easier on space. The way that the dry brine works is that the salt extracts moisture from the meat which dissolves the sugars and aromatics, this flavored solution is then re-absorbed into the meat. The resulting product is tender and juicy turkey. I can’t speak from personal experience, but I have been told by several friends that I have made the “best turkey they have ever tasted”! Don’t believe me, try it yourself!
Turkey is a very lean meat, especially the white meat which is the favorite of everyone that I know. To preserve the moisture and flavor of the brine, I tent my turkey with tinfoil to create a warm air pocket to evenly cook the bird. Most recipes in traditional cookbooks tell you to roast the bird, uncovered, for so long that all of the moisture is sucked out. They try to correct this by telling you to baste your turkey every 20 minutes, but by then you are just pouring juice over the crispy skin and nothing actually penetrates the meat. By roasting the turkey tented and taking its temperature to exactly 165 degrees, then re-tenting it while it rests, you lock all of the moisture inside the meat!
This method is so easy! And the turkey will come out juicy and delicious every time! Never be afraid of having a dry bird ever again. Pair this with traditional, and some untraditional sides for an effortless meal that everyone will be raving about! Happy tenting! and Happy Turkey day!!!
12-14 pound Frozen Turkey (Fresh is best! But I know a lot of us don’t have access to a fresh turkey. If you are a lucky one to use a fresh bird, start at “24 hours before cooking time”.)
For the Brine:
- 1/4 cup of Salt
- 2 tablespoons of White Sugar
- 1 teaspoon of Garlic Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of Thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon of Rosemary
- 1/2 a stick of Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- Meat Thermometer
Instructions: Defrosting the Frozen Turkey
- Pull the frozen turkey out of the freezer about 40 hours before you want to eat it. (You can shorten this amount of time if necessary, but I recommend this long to safely defrost.)
- Place the turkey, with the plastic wrapping intact, breast side down in a clean sink. Place a baking sheet on top of it and fill the sink with cool to room temperature water. (It may seem counter-intuitive to use cool water but hot water will not work faster, and it will increase the risk of bacteria growth on the meat.)
- Drain and replace the water every half an hour. Repeat until the breast meat is soft and gives when you press gently on it. (Roughly 2 hours. It does not have to be fully de-frosted.)
- Place bird in fridge overnight to finish defrosting.
Instructions: 24 Hours Before Cooking Time
- Pull out the fully defrosted turkey and remove the packaging. (If there is a little ice inside the cavity that is ok) Remove the neck, livers, etc. Rinse well and pat dry. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, breast side up. (**If you use a fresh turkey start here!)
- Mix together the dry brine.
- With clean hands, slowly work your way between the skin and the breast meat, creating a pocket.
- Rub the dry brine all over the outside of the turkey. (Do not put the brine inside the cavity of the turkey or it can get too salty.) Give extra brine to the breast meat, make sure you get some underneath the bird too.
- Once it is fully covered with the dry brine, place the turkey back into the fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours.
Instructions: – Thanksgiving day!
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Carefully remove the turkey from the fridge. There will be a lot of excess liquid in the bottom of the pan, discard this. Place the Turkey into its roasting pan.
- Generously rub the turkey all over with the butter, using all of it. Get a good amount of butter into the pocket between the breast meat and the skin!
- If you are stuffing your bird now is the time. Tuck the wings behind the breast of the turkey and either tie the drumsticks together or tuck them under a flap of skin.
- Create a tinfoil tent and cover the turkey. Cook for 3 hours.
- Uncover the turkey and cook another 1/2 hour at 350 degrees. (Save the tent.)
- Take the temperature of the turkey with your meat thermometer, placing it as close to the beast bone as possible. You want it to be 165 degrees and when you remove the thermometer the juices should run clear. (If it is not at 165 degrees, continue cooking 10 minutes at a time and retake temperature.)
- Once the turkey reaches the optimum temperature, remove it from the oven and re-tent. Let it sit for at least a half an hour before carving.