Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe: How to Cook Tender Juicy Turkey - How to Make Homemade Turkey Gravy
How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey
Turkey has been a North American Thanksgiving tradition for hundreds of years. Knowing how to cook a turkey is essential for anybody who wants to host a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast for friends and family, but if you’ve never cooked one before, it can be a daunting task. For most people, the secret to a delicious turkey is crispy skin and tender, juicy meat, and there a few ways you can accomplish this.
1 cup (288 g) kosher salt
½ cup (87.5 g) light brown sugar
1 gallon (16 cups or 3.8 L) vegetable stock
1 tablespoon (15 g) black peppercorns
1 ½ teaspoons (22.5 g) allspice berries
1 ½ teaspoons (22.5 g) chopped candied ginger
1 gallon (16 cups or 3.8 L) heavily iced water
One whole turkey, fresh or frozen
1 red apple, sliced
½ onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup (240 ml) water
2 tablespoons (30 g) dried parsley
2 tablespoons (30 g) ground dried rosemary
2 tablespoons (30 g) dried sage
2 tablespoons (30 g) dried thyme
1 tablespoon (15 g) lemon pepper
1 tablespoon salt (15 g)
2 tablespoons (28 g) butter
2 cups (480 ml) broth
Drippings from the turkey
2 cups (480 ml) broth
¼ cup (37.5 g) flour
Brining the Turkey
Thaw the turkey.Frozen turkeys must be kept frozen until you're ready to use them. A few days before cooking your meal, you can start thawing out the turkey using a poultry-safe method that will prevent the growth and spread of bacteria. You cannot safely thaw turkey at room temperature for more than two hours.
- To refrigerator thaw the turkey, you will need about 24 hours per five pounds of turkey. Simply place the turkey in the refrigerator a few days before you plan to cook it. Once thawed, the turkey can stay in the fridge for another two days. Make sure you place a protective sheet or plate under the bird to catch any liquid.
- If you don’t have as much time, you can also thaw the turkey in cold water, and this will only require about 30 minutes per pound. Place the turkey in a sealable plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the thawed turkey immediately.
Prepare the brine.To give the brine the best flavor, prepare it three days before you plan to cook the turkey. Then store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to brine the turkey the night before cooking.
- In a large saucepan, combine the salt, brown sugar, stock, peppercorns, allspice berries, and ginger. Heat the brine over medium–high heat, stirring occasionally. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a food storage container and refrigerate.
- This amount of brine is suitable for a turkey up to 16 pounds.
Brine the turkey.The purpose of brining is to make the meat juicier and the skin crispier.The night before you plan to cook the turkey, remove the neck and giblets from the turkey cavity and place the turkey breast-down into a large stockpot.
- Add the ice water and brine solution to cover the turkey.
- If the turkey is floating and not submerged in the brine solution, weigh it down with a plate. Cover the pot with foil or a lid.
- Place the pot in the refrigerator for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Turn the turkey halfway through the brining process.
Remove the turkey from the brine before cooking.Discard the brine and rinse the turkey inside and out. Move the turkey to a roasting rack and pat it dry.
- After patting the turkey dry, let it air dry for another hour before cooking it to ensure the crispiest skin possible.
- Always make sure you wash your hands, cooking surfaces, and dishes well with hot, soapy water when dealing with raw poultry.
Dressing the Turkey
Remove the neck and giblets.If you didn’t brine the turkey and haven't emptied out the neck cavity, do so now. You can either discard the giblets or keep them for making broth or gravy.
- To find the giblets, you must first locate the head of the turkey. Look at the orientation of the legs, because they will always point toward the back of the bird, meaning the head is opposite.
- At the head of the bird, there will be a flap of skin that covers the neck cavity, and the giblets will be located in here. Pull up the flap, place your hand in the cavity, and pull out the giblets.
- You may also have to remove the neck, which will likely be located in the cavity between the legs at the back of the bird. You may also find a premade gravy pouch in either of the cavities, which you can either use or discard.
Make the aromatics for the cavity.Put the onion, apple, and cinnamon stick into a small saucepan. Cover with the water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once simmering, allow to boil for five minutes. Remove from the heat, strain the water, and allow to cool enough to handle.
- You don’t have to boil the aromatics first, but it will help release the flavors of the onion, apple, and cinnamon, which will help to give the turkey some subtle flavors and keep the meat moist.
Place the aromatics into the cavity.Place the strained and cooled onion, apple, and cinnamon stick inside the bird’s large cavity. You can also fill the cavity with other or additional ingredients, such as:
- Apple slices
- Orange slices
- Crushed garlic
- Fresh or dried herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, and sage
Baste the turkey with an herb butter.This will be rubbed on the skin of the turkey to make it crispy, tasty, and golden brown. In a food processor, whiz together the butter, herbs, salt, and pepper.
- Using your hands or a basting brush, spread the herb butter all over the turkey’s skin.
Roasting the Turkey
Position the oven rack.For a turkey that’s under 20 pounds, use the middle rack. For a turkey that’s over 20 pounds, move the rack to the level below. This will ensure that the bird cooks evenly without overcooking or taking too long.
- You will most likely have to remove additional racks from the oven to make enough room for the roasting pan. Make sure you position and remove the racks before you turn the oven on to preheat.
Preheat the oven.Set the oven to 475 F (246 C). While it’s heating up, gather your supplies. You will need:
- Roasting rack (if your turkey isn't already on one)
- Roasting pan designed for the rack you're using
Roast the turkey.Set the turkey breast-up onto the roasting rack, and place the rack into the roasting pan. Pour the broth into the bottom of the pan, but don’t pour it over the turkey itself.
- Place the uncovered turkey in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
Reduce the temperature.After 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 F (177 C).Don't open the door, as this will let out too much heat.
- This process of cooking the turkey on high then reducing the temperature will help make the skin crispy and seal in the juices.
- Continue cooking the turkey at this temperature until it’s done. The general rule of thumb is that you need to cook turkey for 13 minutes per pound. If you're working with a 15-pound turkey, you'll need to cook it for about 195 minutes, or three hours and 15 minutes.
Use a thermometer to check the temperature.The 13 minutes per pound rule is a good guideline, but actual cooking time will vary based on whether you stuffed, trussed, or brined the turkey. Always use a thermometer to determine when the turkey is done.
- About halfway into the estimated cooking time, start checking the internal temperature of the turkey regularly. It’s fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C).
- Check the temperature in three separate places: the breast, inner thigh, and outer thigh.
Let the meat rest before carving and serving.When the turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
- When your ready to carve the turkey, remove the roasting rack from the pan and transfer the turkey to a cutting board.
- Resting meat before cutting it will help keep the juices inside the meat, preventing it from drying out.
Make gravy from the drippings.Transfer the liquid in the roasting pan to a large saucepan. Add 1 cup (240 ml) of stock or broth to the drippings, and heat over medium heat.
- In a bowl, whisk together ¼ cup (37.5 g) of flour and 1 cup (240 ml) of broth. Whisk this in to the stock and drippings and continue heating the gravy until it thickens.
- You can also leave the drippings in the roasting pan and make the gravy in that, as long as you have a roasting pan that’s durable enough to withstand direct heat from an element.
QuestionHow can I cook a turkey without an oven?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThanks!
Video: The Best Way to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey | SAM THE COOKING GUY 4K
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