How to Roast Your Own Turkey Perfectly Every Time
Your first turkey roast can be a grand success, no matter what you’ve heard. The hardest step in roasting a turkey is actually making a choice from the mind-boggling varieties available. You’ll never want to go back to store-bought Thanksgiving roasts after you’ve made one for yourself!
Choosing a turkey
You may prefer fresh turkey to frozen, but if you’re buying the bird from the supermarket, there won’t be much of a difference between the two. This is typically a Broad-Breasted White variety. Before roasting, you should brine it to improve the texture, and be generous with the seasoning.
Among your other options, there are the Natural or Organic types you can buy if you’re particular about avoiding pesticides and antibiotics. Natural will be less expensive than Organic.
For richer flavors, look for Heritage birds such as Bourbon Red, Jersey Buff and others. Self-basting turkeys are injected with herbs, oils, preservatives and spices to make less work for you.
Preparing the turkey
You could thaw your bird in the microwave, but ideally you should let it thaw in the refrigerator. Give the turkey one day to thaw for every four pounds. Pat the bird dry when it has fully thawed. Remove the giblets and the neck and reserve to make stock for gravy.
Season generously with coarse kosher salt and pepper. How much salt and pepper you use will depend on the turkey and whether it is brined or self-basting.
For brining supermarket turkeys, allow half a teaspoon of salt per pound of bird. You can also add some lemon zest for an interesting flavor. Place the bird in a re-sealable plastic bag, along with herbs and garlic cloves if you like. Seal it and refrigerate for one to three days.
Make a stock with the reserved gizzard, liver, heart and neck, along with vegetables and seasoning. This will be the base for your gravy.
Bring out the turkey from the fridge and pat it dry with paper towels. If you brined it, uncover the turkey and place it on a baking sheet. Put it back in the fridge for about 4 to 12 hours. This process will dry the skin and give you crispy skin on the roast.
Just before cooking, bring the bird out and let it stand for an hour to come to room temperature. You can now stuff the bird with your preferred stuffing. Secure the neck flap over the cavity with toothpicks and truss the legs with cotton kitchen string.
Place the turkey in the roasting pan (one with handles and strong enough to withstand the weight of the bird). Martha Stewart suggests placing cheesecloth soaked in butter and wine over the breast and leg at this point.
Cooking the turkey
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the turkey on a rack, in the roasting pan, in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Then brush the cheesecloth (if you’ve using one) and the other parts you can see with melted butter or oil.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees. If you’re using self-basting turkey, you can cover with aluminum foil and let it cook until the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees on your thermometer. Alternately, you can quickly baste the cheesecloth every thirty minutes with butter or oil. Spoon out excess juices for gravy. After 2 hours, you can remove the cheesecloth and baste one final time before placing it back in the oven.
How do you know if the turkey’s done? If the meat reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s ready to serve. If you use an oven-proof thermometer during roasting, you don’t interrupt the cooking time each time you open and shut the door.
That’s all there is to cooking the perfect roast turkey. Go ahead and try your own!