So You Want to Cook the Perfect Turkey…

by Jac Berguson

New Year’s Day might feel mere days past, but Thanksgiving is fast approaching. On easily the biggest feast of the year, everyone is looking to fill their plates two or three or four times. Eating is fun, for sure, but much of the fun of Thanksgiving comes from the preparation and the execution of the meal. Nothing beats the looks on the faces of your family as they gobble down the turkey.

Turkey is notoriously difficult to cook, or so the reputation precedes it. What if I told you that cooking the big bird is easier than you think, with the right tools and the right preparation.

To put together the perfect turkey, you’re going to need a few supplies. First, the turkey—obviously. You’ll also need a few key seasonings: sage, rosemary, salt and pepper. You’ll need an apple and a cinnamon stick.

You’ll also need one more item, and it’s going to sound strange—a syringe. Empty syringes can be found at more stores than you think, and at the risk of looking like a junkie, it is worth the investment.

Around Monday, you’ll want to start thawing out the bird. A turkey can take days upon days to thaw in the fridge, and without proper time, no amount of preparation will make it cook.

On Tuesday, you’ll make the brine. You’ll need a cup and a half of kosher salt, 2 cups of brown sugar, a gallon and a half of water, and two quarts of chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock. Chill the water and boil the stock. While the stock is boiling, stir in the salt and brown sugar, then cool with the water once the mixture dissolves.

Here is where the syringe comes in handy. Use it to inject some of the brine directly into the meat of the turkey. Stitch it into all of the thickest parts of the meat—the center of the breast, the drumstick, the thigh, etc. Then submerge the turkey in the brine, as best as possible. The brine will soak the flavor into the bird, and the injections will allow it to better permeate the meat.

Allow the turkey to sit until Thursday morning, when you will remove from the brine, and submerge in clean water for 15 minutes. This will keep the turkey from becoming too salty. After rinsing, make sure the turkey is patted completely dry around the skin. Moisture will keep the skin from crisping when roasted.

The last component is the roasting. You’ll need to truss, or tie, the bird, so that the legs do not fall during roasting. A turkey will take about 10 minutes per pound in a 275 degree oven. For a 15 lb turkey, coat with olive oil and roast for two and a half hours, breast side up.

At this point, you’ll want to remove the turkey from the oven and add butter, rosemary, and sage. For added flavor, you may want to add a cinnamon stick or some apple. Stuff it inside the turkey’s cavity, and place back in the oven at 375 degrees. You’ll want to baste the bird every 30 minutes with the butter and juice.

To make sure the turkey cooks perfectly, make sure to take it out at 168-169 degrees. The temperature will continue to rise after removal, and will stop around 175 degrees. Taking the turkey out at 175 degrees will cause it to overcook, and it will become dry and tacky.

Cover with foil, and save the juice! The juice will add tremendous flavor to the gravy, so treat it like the nectar of the gods.

Hopefully, following these instructions, you can impress a crowd on Thanksgiving Day. Nothing is more sacred or more revered than the Turkey, and you just aced it.