Here’s the thing about turkey. It is something that most people make on Thanksgiving but really don’t love to eat. They love the sides, the gravy, the dressing, the pies, the warm spiced wine… but the turkey? It better have a lot of gravy on it. Some people these days even skip the turkey and just make a protein that they actually love to eat.
…it you’re a sucker for tradition like I am, there are two things you can do to make a fantastically moist turkey that will revive its status on the Thanksgiving table.
The first, which you’ve heard before I’m sure, is a brine. A great turkey starts with a great brine. Brining your turkey helps produce a moist, flavorful bird with minimal effort. The brine works to infuse the meat with flavor, and helps the bird retain moisture. Brining at its most basic is simply submerging the turkey in a large pan filled with a salt-water solution for several hours, in the refrigerator. You can brine for a few hours or overnight. The basic brine ratio: 1 gallon water to 1 cup table salt
This Turkey Brine is where to start with your bird. And you can get fancy with the recipe and add other flavorings that you love… orange peel, lemon peel, star anise, and other good things.
The second thing that affects how moist your turkey is, is actually how you carve the turkey. Here is the order in which I carve:
LEG – Pull each leg out from the turkey and use short, swiping motions with the tip of the knife as you cut toward the joint. Pop back the white ball joint, and cut through it to separate the leg, or just twist it off. Find the joint between the thigh and drumstick, then cut through it. If you want to serve the dark meat off the bone, slice parallel to the leg bone to remove the drumstick meat. Ditto for the thighs.
WING – Pull each wing away from the breast to reveal the joint, then cut through it.
BREAST – There are a few schools of thought for the breast meat. Some people like to carve thin slices directly from the breast bone. But I go for thick slices with a better bite, less fibrous texture, and prettier presentation, and take off the entire breast.
You’ll want to slice the breast crosswise, against the grain. You can see the grain in those fine lines all going in one direction.
Slice in the opposite direction with 1/4-1/2 inch slices.
This will help the breast meat retain its moisture, since it is usually the first part to dry out.
Before too long, you’ll have some seriously moist turkey at your table. And people will look at the turkey in a whole new way.
Here are some other turkey improving tips:
1. Once you remove the turkey from a brine, let it sit out afterwards uncovered in the refrigerator to let skin dry and the brine retreat back into the meat.
2. Use trussing string to tie together the turkey legs for a nicer presentation and more uniform cooking.
3. Cook between 325 and 375 degrees F. Stuffing your bird increases the cooking time, add about 5 to 7 minutes per pound. If you stuff your turkey, make sure you check the temperature of the stuffing and not just the bird before serving. The stuffing must register at least 160°F before it is safe to eat. Use a meat thermometer for best results. When done, all parts of the turkey should be 165°F.
4. Use a meat thermometer—there really is no substitute for determining when your turkey is done!
5. Once it comes out of the oven, let it rest for up to 30 minutes, covered well in foil to help the juices retreat back into the meat.
Here is a little cooking segment I did on cooking a Thanksgiving bird if you’re more of a visual person. Happy Turkey day lovely people!
Or… if you prefer the Dallas Fox, this just aired today too I learned: