Every year, the fourth Thursday of November comes around and much to the dismay of the birds that go “gobble”, we Americans sit down with family and friends and enjoy a homemade turkey dinner. Whether it’s baked in the oven, or fried outdoors, turkey on Thanksgiving is as American on fireworks on the 4th of July. With this in mind, we present you with tips to make your turkey unforgettable, courtesy of the queen of everything domestic, Martha Stewart.
- Size Matters: Get the big bird. Martha recommends that for a large party, get a turkey that weighs anywhere from 15 to 20 lbs. But don’t forget, the best part of Thanksgiving are those turkey sandwiches the next day, so if you can afford it, opt for the larger turkey.
- Brine the Bird: There is NOTHING worse than carving the turkey only to find the meat to be dry and chewy. Yuck! To avoid dry turkey meat, experts recommend that you brine the turkey, aka let it soak overnight in a salt bath. This ensures the turkey retains moisture during roasting. To brine a turkey, simply combine 7 quarts of water with 1 1/2 cups of kosher salt, as well as two medium chopped onions, 6 crushed garlic cloves, and rosemary, thyme, and basil leaves as well as black peppercorns, to taste. Boil the mixture until the salt dissolves and let cool. Fill a roasting bag with the brine and place into a large stockpot or bucket (enough to fit the turkey in) and then submerge the turkey. Place the container in a fridge or cool place like your garage, under ice to keep it below 40 degrees. Remove the turkey an hour before cooking.
- Butter up: Love that crispy flavorful skin on the turkey? Before popping the turkey in the over,melt two sticks of butter on the stove top, along with some kosher salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to cool. Soak a cheesecloth in the cooled butter and place across the breast of the turkey, using the leftover butter to soak the uncovered parts. Remove the cheesecloth after two hours in the oven
- Do It Right: Martha recommends cooking at 350 degrees. To make sure the turkey is fully cooked, it should be 15 minutes for every pound of bird (So for a 20lb. turkey, its 15min x 20lbs=5 hours of cook time). To ensure the turkey is thoroughly cooked, place a thermometer in the thickest part of the bird (right between the breast and the thigh). It needs to be 165 degrees.
- Presentation is Everything: So you have been slaving away in the kitchen all day and now the bird is done. Let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to ensure the juices have settled before cutting. Now it’s time to carve! Using a sharpened knife (not a serrated blade, as it tears the meat), remove the drumsticks first, then slice the dark thigh meat. To remove the breast meat, start at the narrowest part of the breast and slice toward the rib cage (as a guide) and cut vertically. Finally removed the wings by slicing the wing joint and twisting to sever. Place meat on a warmed platter, with the legs and wings in the center, and the pieces of breast meat in a circle around.
- Give yourself a pat on the back! You just made the best Thanksgiving turkey ever!