Thanksgiving Turkey
Method adapted from Alton Brown

1 turkey (weight depends on how many people are coming to your dinner; mine was about 12 pounds; allow for 3/4 pound per person – or more if you, like me, love turkey leftovers)
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley (or you can use fresh sage instead)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic: 2 finely chopped, and 2 smashed and peeled
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6 sprigs fresh parsley (of 4 sprigs fresh sage)
4 shallots thinly sliced (or 1 medium onion)

1. Let the turkey come to room temperature – this will take some time as it is quite a large bird. Give it a couple of hours at room temperature. Once the turkey is at room temperature, thoroughly pat it dry with paper towels, making sure to get in all the crevices, the internal cavity, under the wings, and where the drumsticks have a skin fold.

2. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Place bird on roasting rack in a roasting pan or a half-sheet baking pan. If you don’t have a roasting rack, make a “snake” out of foil (tear a long piece of foil and scrunch it up into a snake-like tube) and make a flat spiral out of it—there, you just make your own makeshift roasting rack.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the butter, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper, and the finely chopped garlic until all the ingredients are incorporated. Make sure the turkey is at room temperature and is dry before rubbing the turkey, all over with the herbed butter. You will want to lift the skin between the meat and the breast and deposit some butter in those pockets as well. If your turkey is not room temperature, rubbing the butter will cause two things (see picture): your butter will firm up, making it harder to rub into the turkey; and the turkey will start “perspiring” and getting wet which makes is impossible to grease.

If you keep kosher and butter is a no-go for you, rub the turkey with a neutral oil that can withstand high temperatures—grapeseed oil is ideal here. Proceed with seasoning your turkey accordingly with salt and pepper (forget the herbs since it’s harder to rub them on the turkey with the oil). Also, if you’re using a kosher turkey, you might want to decrease the amount of salt you use on the turkey since it already comes pre-seasoned.

4. Once the butter (or oil) has been rubbed all over the turkey, add the shallots, sprigs of herbs and smashed garlic to the internal cavity. Grease a large folded piece of heavy-duty foil (it should look like an isosceles triangle) and place it over the breast, greased side down, with the long pointy corner pointing towards the opening of the turkey, over the breast and tuck the other corners under the wings. You basically want to “mold” the foil triangle to the breast place. Remove the triangle and set it aside.

5. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes at 500 degrees F. By the time you pull the turkey out, it should be getting some nice, crisp, brown skin.

6. Cover breast with the premade breastplate, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to the oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. [The bird for this post was about 14 pounds and took about 2 hours.] Once the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, cover it with a dome of heavy-duty foil, and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving, which gives you ample time to make the dressing and pop open that celebratory bottle of wine.

Turkey Brine:
2 quarts warm water
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups Diamond Crystal kosher salt
8 pounds ice
16 cups broth (your choice what kind)

In a clean, 5-gallon cooler, stir together the water, sugar, and salt until both are dissolved. Add the ice and the broth. Immerse the turkey (neck and giblets removed) in the brine bath, breast side up. If the turkey tries to float, put a weight on it – I find that a gallon resealable bag filled with water works wonders. Place a thermometer in the cooler – and make sure the temperature stays at 40 degrees F. If, at any point during the brining process, the temperature gets close to that number, add a few cooler packs. Close the cooler lid, and let the turkey brine for 8 to 10 hours, flipping it over once.

© 2024 Olga Massov