My finished turkey, roasted to perfection!Confession: Prior to Saturday, I knew very little about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, let alone what makes a great turkey recipe. The week of my first annual Friendsgiving (think potluck Thanksgiving with friends, the weekend before the legit family shebang), I was frightened and SO thankful when The Stir readers gave me some great advice about throwing together a grand meal.
I had done my research, bought my 19-pounder, and picked out my recipe, care of Tyler Florence. I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but the end result was tender, juicy, and essentially, nothing short of outstanding. Now I feel like it's only appropriate that I share my newfound tricks with you!
Read on for 5 tips to making the most moist, delicious Thanksgiving turkey ever:
1. Butter is better: Coming to terms with the notion that your turkey isn't going to be the healthiest thing you've ever eaten is step one. Step two involves salt, pepper, and a whole lot of butter. Before putting the bird in the oven, season some butter at room temperature with spices of your choosing. Then, rub the spiced butter under the folds of the skin, being careful not to make any tears.
2. Baste, baste, baste!: Basting a turkey means that you'll get a crispier skin and more moist meat. Since the bird does need some solid cooking time, you don't want to do it too often. I chose to wet the bird every 30 minutes or so, and was extremely pleased with the texture of the meat.
3. Pair up: The best way to efficiently prepare your turkey is by enlisting a right-hand man (or woman). I was lucky to have my dad by my side to help baste the bird every half hour. I would quickly open the oven and start basting the bird before he had the chance to pull the turkey completely forward. Basting quickly means you'll be letting less heat escape, thus maintaining the oven's temperature.
4. Be a smart seasoner: Too much salt will dry out your bird, and nobody wants that! Also, in addition to rubbing the turkey down with butter, oil up the skin. This will seal the moisture in.
5. Carve wisely: Don't ruin all of your hard work by carving the bird the wrong way and letting all of the juices leak out. Yes, it's nerve wracking. By the time you slice into that thing, everyone's hungry and highly anticipating the main course. However, do your research, watch a YouTube instructional video or two, and you'll be a well-trained carving machine!
If the flavors of maple and sage make your mouth water, check out the recipe I adapted from Tyler Florence this past weekend. I promise, it will leave everyone at your Thanksgiving table drooling for more:
Maple-Roasted Turkey With Sage, Smoked Bacon, and Cornbread Stuffing
- 1 turkey (12 to 15 pounds)
- 1/2 bunch finally chopped sage
- 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter
- 2 finely chopped large onions
- 6 cups cubed cornbread (about one loaf)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 cups chicken stock
- Ground black pepper and kosher salt
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 8 strips bacon
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 juiced lemon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, combine the sage and butter together, mixing with a spoon until well-incorporated. Saute 4 tablespoons of your sage butter with chopped onion on medium heat, until the onion is golden. Remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine onions with cornbread, heavy cream, and egg. If needed, add chicken stock to moisten mixture (about 1/2 cup), and season with salt and pepper.
3. Next up, rinse your turkey thoroughly and remove the gizzards and neck. Gently lift the skin from legs and breast, and massage in sage butter underneath. Place just enough cornbread stuffing to fill the inner cavity, and cook remaining stuffing in separate dish. Place your turkey in large roasting pan, and then place it carefully into the oven.
4. In the meantime, whisk hot water and maple syrup together to make your basting glaze in a small bowl. Baste your turkey for the first time 30 minutes in, and every 30 minutes thereafter until done.
5. With one hour left until the turkey is fully cooked, place your uncooked bacon slices on top of the bird. Don't worry, these will cook fully during remaining roasting time. Allow turkey to cook until the internal temperature at the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170 degrees. Then, remove turkey from oven and transfer to cutting board so it can rest for at least 20 minutes.
6. Take the turkey drippings, skim off the fat, and place them over medium heat on the stove. Slowly whisk flour into the drippings and stir constantly to get rid of lumps. Add remaining chicken stock, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon, and bring gravy to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Do you have any tried and true turkey tips?
Image via Emily Abbate