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How to Roast Turkey

Updated on June 28, 2009

The Secret to Perfectly Roasted Turkey.

Turkey seems to make it to the American dinner table at least twice a year. And every year around the holidays, the big question is, "How do I roast a turkey?" What people want to know is how to keep that turkey moist. Most of us have experienced the turkey jerky dinner, that overcooked bird that you can barely choke down with gravy. The secret to moist, flavorful turkey is in the preparation. What you do before that bird ever hits the oven makes a huge difference.

The Turkey Brine

Brining a turkey locks in the moisture, that is the secret. A turkey brine solution is made with sugar, salt and water. Herbs can be added for extra flavor. I suggest rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, whole peppercorns and garlic. To properly brine a turkey, you will need a large, covered container that can hold the turkey and enough water to cover it. The big, orange water coolers common on construction sites are the perfect size.

To prepare the brine, dissolve 1 pound of Kosher salt and 1 pound of brown sugar in hot water. Add the herbs to the mixture, and pour into the cooler. Add cold water and ice to cool the mixture down completely before placing the turkey in the brine. Once the bird is in the cooler, add cold water to cover it completely and top with a four or five inch layer of ice. Close the lid and leave it overnight. You may have to add more ice on occasion to keep the temperature cold enough.

The Turkey Rub

Turkey, on its own, doesn't have much flavor. It needs a lot of help, and luckily that is very easy to do. Combine 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, juice of one lemon and a tablespoon each of the following herbs: chopped thyme, chopped rosemary, chopped sage. Whisk the mixture together in a bowl.

Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it off and pat it dry. Place the turkey in a roasting pan. Using your hands, apply the rub to the turkey, massaging it in. Also, gently lift the skin from the breast and apply the rub in between the skin and meat. Lightly season the outside of the turkey with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

To Stuff or Not to Stuff

Poultry stuffing comes out mushy and gray, and honestly does not look all that appealing. Rather than using a bread stuffing, try filling the body cavity with more flavor. The lemon that you used for juice in the rub can be placed in the cavity along with sprigs of fresh herbs, whole cloves of garlic and bay leaves.

Roasting the Turkey

Once you have seasoned your turkey, turn it breast side down on a rack in the roasting pan. Place the turkey into an oven preheated to 500° F for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350° F and continue roasting until the internal temperature reaches 150° F. At this time, remove the turkey from the oven and carefully turn it over so the breast is up and can brown. Return the turkey to the oven and continue roasting until the internal temperature reaches 175° F. Remove the turkey from the oven, tent it with foil, and let it continue cooking on its own. Do not carve the turkey until it has reached an internal temperature of 185° F. Allowing the turkey to finish the last ten degrees outside the oven will give it time for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. The turkey should be allowed to rest for at least 10 minutes before being cut.

No basting is necessary to roast a beautiful turkey. In fact, the constant opening of the oven increases the cooking time. Cooking time will vary based on the size of the bird.

Remove the fruit and herbs from the body cavity, carve and serve.

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