Happy Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah) to all of you! I'm grateful for all of you! I know it's a little late, but I figured I'd share my turkey day tips and recipes.
First things first, make sure your bird has had about 3 days to defrost.
Make sure you clean your bird well. Remove excess fat and skin, remove gizzards and neck. Some people make these on the side, but you don't want them inside the bird.
I started brining my turkey about 4 years ago and what a difference it makes! I use Alton Brown's recipe, except for the candied ginger since I never seem to have any on hand. I give it 24 to 36 hours and make sure to flip it. This extra step of brining is so worth it at the end when you have an ultra moist turkey.
I highly recommend some aromatics in the cavity of the bird. I often use an apple and an onion and some herbs, usually rosemary. You can use any combination you like, this just happens to be my favorite.
Last year I also started trussing the turkey, it really isn't as hard as it seems and Alton Brown comes to the rescue again with a great video on how to, however at the start of the video he says he has 12 feet of rope/twine and you really don't need that much. However, it is better to have some extra you can trim off than to come up short and have to redo the whole thing. Trussing has two main benefits. Firstly, you get a classically "nicer" looking turkey with all the limbs where they ought to be. Secondly, you get more even cooking. Larger parts like the breast are still fully exposed, but wings and drumsticks are tucked a little closer to the body and so they won't be overcooked by the time the breast is done. This also helps to keep the meat from drying out in those places.
To get a nice crispy skin, you can brush the whole turkey with little canola or vegetable oil. Personally I love butter, so I rub the skin with a little butter and also tuck some under the skin. I think butter gives it such a nice flavor, but you still get the crispiness of the skin.
A few extra unnecessary steps I usually do. I like to use a flavor injector to flavor the meat a little more. You can use anything from stocks to juices. I like it, but after brining and aromatics you don't necessarily need to do this. I also like to make a spice mix that I rub onto or under the skin. Usually some ground sage and rosemary with salt and pepper and sometimes a little garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne. Really, if you're going to do this step, you can do whatever your heart desires. Feel free to experiment with spices and herbs you like.
There's a debate between whether it's best to brown the skin at the beginning or the end of cooking. I usually save it for the end and have had good results, but I've also done the browning at the beginning once or twice. I usually use a covered pan or aluminum foil to help keep some of the moisture in.
I NEVER put the stuffing into the bird, in my house we've always made it separately. There are a few reasons. The stuffing can end up over or under cooked and comes into contact with raw turkey and that can be problematic. It's also much messier when serving and transporting to the table. It's just easier and safer to make it separately.
New to making Thanksgiving dinner or only cooking for a few people? Save yourself a lot of trouble and make a turkey breast. You can do a lot with a turkey breast and it can be a lot less work, especially for the first timer. You'll have less mess and trouble and equally good results. Plus you won't have mountains of leftovers.You can also do a potluck to help take some of the stress off. My mom always makes the stuffing and I do the turkey. It helps to take a little stress off. Click here for my mom's homemade stuffing recipe.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Hope these tips make it easier for you! Please share your tips, tricks, and recipes in the comments below.