Perfect Roast Turkey |

Perfect Roast Turkey

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Photo by timsackton
Yesterday we looked at how to sous vide your Thanksgiving Day turkey. I'm all about new techniques and have been clearing counter space for an immersion circulator as soon as we began selling them in the Cooking District Store. I will so be trying Zach's recipe and method sometime very soon, but it will not be this Thanksgiving. My bird will be coming to the table whole and roasted.

Why? A few years ago I was on a radio show on Thanksgiving Eve with a group of other chefs and food writer types. We were meant to be troubleshooting and saving peoples Thanksgiving meals as they ran into cooking problems. But although I'm sure folks meals and lives were made better with our cheffy tips for adding bacon to their Brussels sprouts and bourbon to the gravy, about halfway though they night I realized that we were dashing far more dreams than inspiring ones. Caller after caller asked how to make their impossibly large turkey both moist of flesh and crisp of skin. And one after the other, the chefs explained that what they really needed to do was to break down the bird, roast the breast, braise the legs and serve it up. "IN PIECES?" one woman said incredulously. You could hear her lips quivering to hold back the tears. While most of our little phone crew were equally incredulous that someone would cling to tradition over culinary perfection, a part of me understood both sides.

Thanksgiving food is all about tradition and sense memory. When you sous vide, you sacrifice the house filling up with the scent of slowly roasting turkey. When you cook it in parts, you miss out on the ceremonial carving. But by cooking the turkey my way, you get a bit of the best of both worlds.

Start with the best turkey you can afford — pastured, free range, heritage. Count on slightly more than a pound of turkey per person. And stay away from super huge birds — more than 15-16 pounds and it will most likely break your heart. If you need more than that, this is where I will say, consider buying extra parts to make up the difference. Or do like my friend D's family does — they cook two 12-14 pound turkeys, referring to the second one as "the sandwich turkey."

Start your turkey 12 to 48 hours in advance. Remove the giblets and pat the turkey dry. Very generously salt and pepper the bird, making sure to hit all of the parts, even the cavity. Then place the seasoned bird in the fridge, uncovered. As it sits, the salt will permeate the meat, making the meat more able to retain it's juices. And allowing the skin to air dry will help make it crispier when you cook it.

Take the turkey out of the fridge about 2 hours before you want to start cooking.

Heat your oven to 450 degrees.

I stuff some compound butter under the skin, tuck in the wings, tie up the drumsticks and place it, breast side up on a rack in a sturdy roasting pan. Pour 2 cups of turkey or chicken broth into the pan.

Place in the oven, and after 5 minutes lower the heat to 350 degrees.

Count on about 13 minutes per pound. Rotate the pan after the first hour and if you notice any part of the bird getting too dark, cover with aluminum foil.

To check that your turkey is done, insert a thermometer into the thigh — it should read 170 degrees.


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