Using common ingredients stored in your home pantry or conveniently found at the local Whole Foods Market – This is the stress-free, step-by-step recipe transforming you from Ho Hum Holiday Host to this year’s Thanksgiving Toast – Complete with a series of easy-to-follow proven best practices & recommendations, Chef’s Tips & mouth-watering photographical inspiration for preparing the finest of fall feasts. Now, uncork a bottle of wine (or 2) & let’s get started!
Thanksgiving Tools of the Trade – The Checklist:
- Large stock pot, big enough for a whole turkey, but small enough to fit in refrigerator
- Cutting boards & mixing bowls
- Measuring cups
- Basting brush
- Wine. Lots & lots of wine.
- Sharpened chef’s knife
- Roasting pan, with elevated rack
- Digital-read internal thermometer
- Carving fork & knife
- Paper towel
- Plastic wrap
- Aluminum Foil
- Sauté pan, for preparing gravy, optional
- Latex Gloves, handling raw turkey
Selecting the Meat: Whole Foods Market offers several trusted alternatives – whether organic, heritage, classic or kosher, fresh, frozen or fully roasted & ready to serve, the meat department supplies an incredible array of Thanksgiving birds to satisfy each individual & household’s demand. Furthermore, every turkey is qualified as 5-Step® Animal Welfare rated, free of antibiotics, solutions, injections, growth hormones & no animal by-products used in Turkey feed.
Plan Ahead: Consider the recipe time table here – From soup to nuts. Not only should you call the butcher or meat market at least 2 weeks in advance to reserve your bird, but plan to pick up that fine de-feathered beast 3-7 days in prior Thanksgiving.
Total Timetable: 1-5 days defrost + 1-2 days brine + 1 hour preparation + 3-4 hours roast + 30 minutes rest
- Frozen bird: Min Time Necessary: 2 Days, 4 hours, 30 minutes | Max: 7 Days, 5 hours, 30 minutes
- Fresh bird: Min Time Necessary: 1 Day, 4 hours, 30 minutes | Max: 2 Days, 5 hours, 30 minutes
Chef’s Note: I suggest avoid brining a frozen turkey – Not all, but most have been aided with a salt-based solution prior to packaging. But, I absolutely recommend brining fresh turkey – it is a critical difference-maker in preparing more flavorful, tender turkey meat.
How Much Meat is Too Much Meat?: Plan in advance by purchasing at least 1.5 pounds of whole turkey per guest – This weight recommendation represents total turkey weight & should include enough meat for hungry guests, a surprise guest or 2 & Thanksgiving leftovers.
Thawing Frozen Birds: Up to 5 days in advance, while still sealed in it’s plastic packaging,begin thawing the turkey inside a refrigerator (preferred method) or sealed & submerged in a large pot of cold water (if in a time crunch).
- Refrigerator: 10-15lbs: 24hours| 15-20lbs: 2 days | 20-25lbss: 3 days | 25-30lbss: 4 days
- Cold Water Bath: 30lbs per 1 pound of turkey (note: replace cold water every 30 minutes).
To Stuff or Not to Stuff – That is the Question: An undeniable Thanksgiving staple, stuffing is best prepared outside of the turkey’s cavity. Stuffing prepared in the bird significantly increases risks of food-borne illness, reduces convective airflow during the cooking process & extends cooking times by 5-7 minutes per pound – presenting both amateur & seasoned chefs challenges in maintaining a moist breast while the dark meat & internal stuffing arrives to temperature.
Chef’s Note: If you insist on stuffing your poultry with stuffing (again, not recommended) – ensure the bird is loosely packed & temperature of all fare served to your guests has been measured above 165℉.
Low & Slow, Golden & Glorious Poultry Perfection – Roasting Times:
- Not Stuffed: 10-15lbs: 2-3.5 hours| 15-20lbs: 3.5-4 hours | 20-25lbs: 4-5 hours | 25-30lbss: 6 hours
- Stuffed: Add 5-7 minutes per pound of turkey.
Chef’s Note: Cook to temperature, not time – Begin checking the bird’s temperature 30-45 minutes prior to recommended cooking time by inserting a digital read internal thermometer into thickest portion of the turkey thigh, without touching the bone. Remove the bird from roasting at 160F.
Chef’s Note: After removing the bird from oven, the internal juices will continue to cook the bird from the inside out – Tent the turkey loosely with tin foil while the bird rises to USDA suggested serving temperature 165F. Tent resting time is 30 minutes.
- 1 gallon water
- ½ gallon chicken stock, low or no-sodium
- 1 cup salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- Handful of peppercorn seeds, smashed garlic cloves & whole rosemary sprigs
- One-two days in advance of turkey roasting - Over stove-top in a large stock pot bring all ingredients to a raging boil. Stir intermittently until sugars dissolved. Remove from heat & allow to cool completely. Submerge whole, uncooked turkey. Cover with lid & place pot in refrigerator for 1.5 hours per pound of turkey (ie. Brine 20 pounds of turkey 30 hours).
- Remove from Refrigerator. Thoroughly rinse exterior & cavity of the bird, washing away excess salt. Pat the turkey entirely dry with paper towel. Discard brine.
- Prepare for immediate seasoning & roasting.
- ½ cup olive oil, plus additional for basting
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground peppercorn, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- In small mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Apply to turkey immediately or seal in air-tight container & refrigerate up to 2 weeks for later use.
- 1 15 pound fresh turkey, giblets removed, rinsed & patted dry with paper towel
- Holiday Turkey Brine, see recipe above
- Thanksgiving Fresh Herb Rub, see recipe above
- Turkey Cavity Aromatics:
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1-2 carrots, chopped.
- 4-6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 piece of ginger root, peeled & chopped
- 1 orange, peel only
- Sprigs of rosemary & thyme
- Roasting Liquids:
- 3 cups chicken stock, low or no-sodium
- 1 cup dry white wine, chardonnay or pinot grigio
- Kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn, to taste
- Parsley, to garnish
- Thaw & brine turkey, per recommendations above.
- Wrap bird tightly in plastic wrap & rest at room temperature for one hour prior to roasting.
- Remove wrap, pat bird entirely dry with paper towel, then apply a liberal degree of Thanksgiving Fresh Herb Rub to exterior skin & interior cavity of the turkey. See recipe above.
- Preheat oven to 325℉.
- Lightly & loosely stuff the turkey cavity with prepared vegetables & herbs.
- Tie together rear legs of the turkey with kitchen string & tuck wings under the bird’s thighs.
- In a roasting pan with fitted turkey rack, pour roasting liquids & remaining aromatics, then place stuffed turkey breast side down upon the rack.
- Set turkey in the oven, roasting per time recommendation above. Flip the bird breast-side up after 30-45 minutes, basting intermittently with olive oil & roasting pan liquids. When internal temperature of the turkey reaches 150F, turn the oven from 325F to 500F, blasting the turkey exterior with an intense burst of heat, crisping the skin until golden brown. Remove turkey from oven when internal temperature of thigh meat reads 160F.
- Loosely tent roasting pan with tin foil, allowing the bird’s proteins to relax & reabsorb it’s juices, while the internal temperature to arises to 165F. The turkey should rest for 30 minutes before carving.
- Remove & discard cavity aromatics. Set aside roasting liquids for gravy. Slice bird. Serve. Eat. Drink. Be merry.
Bonus Recipe Tips – Chef’s Notes:
- Resting brined turkey at room temperature prior to roasting allows the bird’s internal temperature variance to level, allowing for more even cooking. The plastic wrap assists in ensuring food safety & preserved moisture.
- Up to 35% of dry rub seasonings will be lost in roasting & basting process – Hence, season liberally. If feeling extra adventurous, cut slits between in the skin & inject rub mixture into space between skin & meat.
- Do not over-stuff the cavity – This reduces convective airflow & extends cooking times – Toss additional vegetable & herb aromatics in bottom of roasting pan to season roasting liquids.
- If bird greater than 20lbs, consider wrapping aluminum foil around birds wing tips & rear drumstick handles to prevent burning.
- Roasting the turkey for 30-45 minutes breast down will allow the juices to pool in the leaner top-side proteins, producing incrementally tender, succulent breast meat.
- Basting is a necessary strategy, but the more times the oven is opened, the longer the cooking process is extended, the greater risk of dried out turkey bird.
- With a carving fork & knife remove the drumstick, thigh, wings & drumettes by slicing at the join. Debone & carve the thigh. Next, slice down breast joint towards the cavity & pull the white breast meat from the bone & rib cage, removing in one piece. Slice the breast meat against the grain to serve.