The Attack of the Turkey!

It’s coming! You knew it would come.

Thanksgiving is just days away. Whether you’ve never attempted to cook a turkey or you’ve done hundreds of them, the thought of taking on The Bird is already a daunting task.

Ultimately, you can ensure that the turkey you serve will be safe to eat, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside by planning ahead and carefully prepping the bird.

No matter how you intend to cook your turkey, you’ll want to thaw it, clean it, brine it, and season the skin first. Let’s get started.

Prep The Bird

Thaw:

Regardless of the size of your bird, it’s going to take A FEW DAYS to thaw, so be sure to plan ahead.

The safest way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the fridge. Place your turkey breast-side up in a roasting pan in the fridge for 2 days. Don’t unwrap it. Just make sure it fits in the pan, so you don’t contaminate your refrigerator. Plan to clean and brine immediately afterwards. You don’t want it to sit for more than 2 days after thawing.

Clean:

Rest your thawed bird on several paper towels in a baking pan or large cookie sheet. Unwrap it, and pat dry with paper towels.

Remove the packages of parts from the cavities of your turkey. Make sure you save the parts for the stuffing.

Brine:

To be sure that you have a nice, moist, juicy turkey with crispy skin, brine the bird in ice cold water with lots of salt. Alton Brown suggests using a well-cleaned ice chest filled with seasoned ice water. You’ll also need a cooking thermometer. Place the ice chest in a large bathtub, and pour 1/2 gallon of hot water into the ice chest. To the hot water add:

  • 2/3 Cup of Sugar
  • 2 Pounds of Salt
  • 16 Cups of Vegetable Broth
  • 8 Pounds of Ice

Place your turkey in the cooler breast-side up. Be sure it is completely submerged. You may need to weigh it down.

Brine the turkey for 8-12 hours, checking the temp every 3-4 hours and adding more ice as necessary to keep it at 40 degrees F.

Plan to get the turkey into the oven as quickly as possible after brining to get a crispy skin.

Season:

After removing the turkey from the brine, quickly pat it dry inside and out. Rub cold butter all over the skin, and then rub with seasoning. Prepare your seasoning rub in advance, and preheat the oven to save time.

Suggested seasoning rub recipes are below with each cooking suggestion.

Cook the Bird

chicken cooked cuisine cutlery


Beer Can Turkey

Seasoning Rub Suggestion:

  • 1 Tablespoon of Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon of Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon of Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon of Thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Sage
  • 1 Tablespoon of Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of Crushed Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar

Instructions:

  1. Heat covered grill to 325 degrees F.
  2. Pour out about 1/3 of the beer from a 24 ounce can of light beer, and place the can securely in the center of the grill.
  3. Lower turkey, legs down, onto the beer can, adjusting for balance. Use metal forks to help with balance, if necessary.
  4. Cover, and cook for 15 minutes per pound. Be sure to cook until 160 degrees F in the center.
  5. Remember to remove the beer can before serving!

Fried Turkey

photo of assorted food hanging on gray metal railings

Seasoning Rub Suggestion:

  • 1 Cup Kosher or Sea Salt
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar

Instructions:

PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FRY A TURKEY INDOORS.

Fried turkey can be a dangerous undertaking, if you are not careful and experienced with this type of cooking.  Be sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby before beginning.

  1. Use a propane cooker that is very stable on a cement base or uncovered patio outdoors. Place a 30 quart pot on the burner, and add about 4 gallons of peanut oil to the pot. Heat to 250 degrees F.
  2. Using large grill forks or sharp tongs and long, thick oven mitts, slowly lower the turkey into the oil.
  3. Turn up the heat to about 350 degrees F, and then monitor the temperature carefully, turning heat down as needed to keep from going above 350 degrees.
  4. Cook for 30-45 minutes. Check the temperature, by placing a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. The temperature should be 150 degrees F.
  5. Turn off the burner, and slowly and carefully removed the turkey with large grill forks or sharp tongs, wearing oven mitts. Place turkey in a large roasting pan to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Check the temperature again. Once the bird has reached 160 degrees F, it is ready to serve.

Rotisserie Turkey

Seasoning Rub Suggestion:

  • 1 Cup of Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Crushed Black Pepper
  • 2 Cups of Ranch Dressing Mix Powder

Instructions:

You will need to make sure you have a large enough rotisserie grill to fit a turkey.  Measure to ensure that you have at least 3 inches of space between the turkey and the sides and top of the cooker.

  1. Heat the grill to 400 degrees F indirect heat (place the coals on one side).
  2. Remove wing tips with cooking shears, and truss the turkey with twine after applying your seasoning rub. Be sure to tie up both the legs and the wings, so that they don’t fall down and get burned.
  3. Mount the turkey on the spit, and place an aluminum roasting pan beneath it to catch juices.
  4. Grill for 15 minutes per pound. Temperature should be 160 degrees F.

Classic Roast Turkey

chicken close up dish food

Seasoning Rub Suggestion:

  • 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Crushed Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Thyme
  • 1/4 Cup Sage
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the turkey with the butter and seasoning rub.
  3. Stuff the turkey with onions, garlic, sage leaves, thyme sprigs, and half of a lemon.
  4. Truss the turkey with twine or unflavored dental floss.
  5. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan with the wing tips tucked under the body.
  6. Roast your turkey for 15 minutes per pound, or until the temperature reads 160 degrees F at the center or deepest part of the breast.
  7. Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes before serving.

No matter how you prepare your turkey, be sure to take precautions to cook it safely, and serve a bird that is safe to eat.  Use oven mitts, check temperatures, and keep surfaces clean and free of contamination.  I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

photo of children playing with dry leaves

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