This post was written by Creative QT Owner, Adam Hinkle. Learn more about the Hinkle family and the heart behind Creative QT here.
Okay, confession time: I don’t really like turkey that much. In fact, I never have understood why the classic American holiday meats are turkey and ham. Those don’t even make it into the top five meat options for me! I was on a campaign for years to cook a Christmas steak or have Thanksgiving ribs. That is, until I learned the perfect way to cook a turkey!
The secret is (drumroll please): use a brine and cook the turkey breast down. If you do this, your bird will be super tender and juicy and you will impress all of your friends and relatives ;-).
1) Defrost the Turkey
Unfortunately, turkeys take a long time to thaw out, but this step is necessary so it cooks evenly. Place your wrapped turkey in the refrigerator in a pan or large dish so it doesn’t leak on anything.
One rule of thumb is that it takes about five hours per pound to defrost a turkey so buy yours with plenty of time to get ready. Because you are brining the turkey, you can count one day in the brine for your defrost. While you are waiting, go Make Time Together with your family!
2) The Brine
The day before you are ready to cook the turkey, make up your brine. It's great fun to get the kids involved too - our kids love helping in the kitchen.
Here's my favorite, secret turkey brine recipe:
- 3 cups course salt
- 6 cups sugar
- 2 medium leeks split down the center
- 2 celery stalks coarsely chopped
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 cup fresh flat leafed parsley
- 2 teaspoons whole black pepper corns
1. Put 10 cups of water into a stock pot and add all of the above ingredients.
2. Bring to a boil until all of the salt and sugar are dissolved, then let cool for 2 hours.
3. Add the mixture to a brining bag (available at most super markets) and add turkey to the brine and refrigerate the turkey in the brine for 18-24 hours.
We usually have to get creative on how to hold the bag close to the turkey so it is completely submerged in the brine. This is usually a combination of setting it in a turkey rack and maybe using some butcher string to hold the bag together. Otherwise the bag just lets it pool and the turkey sits in two inches of the brine liquid.
Two hours before cooking, remove turkey from the brine (discard the brine and vegetables) and let sit at room temperature.
3) Cooking The Turkey
While the turkey is sitting, you can rub the inside of the bird with a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a small handful of salt. Stuff the cavity of the bird with one chopped onion, about 1/4 cup parsley, celery, and a couple of carrots. I stretch the skin over the cavity and use skewers to close it but you can also close it off with aluminum foil.
Rub the outside of the bird with 1/2 cup of butter (or oil) and salt and pepper. Sprinkle chopped fresh thyme and rosemary over the top.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Using butcher’s string, tie the legs together and the wings down. This will keep the bird tight together. Place the turkey on a turkey rack breast down (this is the important part) so all of the juices will drain into that part of the turkey, giving you the juiciest breast meat you have ever tasted.
Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the turkey. Plan on between 14-15 minutes per pound. So, if you have an 18 pound turkey, it will take about 4 hours and 15 minutes.
Roast the turkey for 30 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees for the next 2 hours, then 225 degrees until done.
When you’ve reached the time expected to cook the turkey, begin taking readings with a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and thigh, trying to avoid touching any bones. When the breast reads at 165 degrees and the thigh reads 170 degrees, it’s ready to take it out.
Remove the turkey and let it sit for 20-30 minutes before carving and truly earning your title as hero chef!
4) Carve and let everyone be impressed with your culinary genius
I know it sounds like a lot of work but it’s worth it. Especially if you end up each year eating turkey leftovers for the week after Thanksgiving. Isn’t it worth it to make sure those leftovers aren’t dry?! We’ve done this for several years in a row and it never fails to impress people who think of turkey as a dry piece of meat (including me).
From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. We wish you the best of luck with your turkey baking. God Bless and remember that Thanksgiving is about so much more than just the food ... it's about Making Time Together!
Creative QT designs quality + innovative toys that declutter homes and inspire creative play. Founded by parents of five, Adam and Dana Sue Hinkle, Creative QT’s vision is to empower parents and encourage a culture of families that Make Time Together. All products are designed to enrich families’ lives through active, creative play and play based learning. Creative QT products are laboratory tested for compliance with CPSC requirements and are free of lead, cadmium and phthalates so you can play with confidence. So, go ahead … today is the day: be your kid’s hero.
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