Like most of us, Austinite Gretchen Moran has a pretty great story about messing up a turkey.
A few years ago, she and her husband decided they wanted to fry a turkey. “We thought it would be a good idea to do a trial run, so we followed the instructions from my husband’s sister,” Moran says. By instinct and not instruction, they placed the turkey in the pot and then covered the boiling oil with a lid.
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Dry-Brined Herb Turkey
Without enough room or refrigeration capabilities to do a properly brined turkey, I found great success with a dry brine rubbed on the skin of my Friendsgiving turkey the night before I cooked it earlier this month. I couldn’t find a mid-size turkey (and didn’t feel like hopping from store to store to find a 17-pounder), so the 20-pound bird had to do. It took three full days in the refrigerator to thaw, and even then, it was still a little frozen on the inside, but it turned out just fine.
1 (20-lb.) turkey, thawed (giblets and neck removed)
For the salt rub:
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. ground coriander
2 bay leaves, chopped
Zest of one lemon
For the seasoned butter:
1 cup chopped herbs, such as rosemary, tarragon or thyme, divided
1 stick butter, room temperature
Wash the turkey and pat the skin dry with paper towel.
In a bowl, mix together salt, sugar, coriander, bay leaves, lemon zest and half of the herbs. Crush the herbs into the salt with a pestle (or use your hands to rub together).
Using your hands, sprinkle salt mixture all over the inside and outside of the turkey, including the back. Cover with plastic wrap or, if you can find one, a resealable bag (such as a wet brining bag) big enough to hold it. Press as much air out as you can, and place the covered turkey on a roasting pan and return to the fridge.
Refrigerate for 6 to 10 hours. (You can leave a dry brine on for longer than this, but reduce the amount of salt in the mixture by half. The longer the salt stays on the skin, the more it’s absorbed, so don’t leave the reduced-salt rub on for more than 20 hours.)
Remove turkey from fridge and rinse off the salt mixture. Pat skin dry with paper towels and return to the fridge, uncovered, for two hours to help dry out the excess water.
Remove turkey from the fridge a final time and preheat oven to 500 degrees. While the oven is warming up, mix together the remaining half cup chopped herbs and butter. Using your hands, spread the butter mixture between the skin and meat, including around the legs. (Feel free to use even more butter, if you’d like, especially on the outside.)
Place turkey in a large, deep-sided roasting pan, stick it in the oven for two to three minutes and then turn the heat down to 325 degrees. Continue roasting until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, which for a 20-pound turkey might take between four and five hours. Cover with foil any parts of the turkey where the skins starts to brown a little too quickly.
Remove turkey from the oven, tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carving. Serves 15 to 18.
Brined Roasted Turkey
This recipe for a traditional brined turkey from chef Jeffrey Saad calls for brining the bird for 12 to 16 hours. The key for all brines, either in a saltwater solution or a dry salt rub, is don’t leave the brine on too long. If left in salt too long, not only is the meat too salty, it can become mushy because the salt deteriorates the structure of the meat.
1 (14 lb.) turkey, thawed (giblets and neck removed)
For the brine:
6 cups water
2 cups Kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. chili flakes
3 bay leaves
10 stems of fresh thyme
For the rub:
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Zest of 2 lemons
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped thyme leaves
1 tsp. ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic
Mix together brine ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure salt and sugar are dissolved. Turn off heat. Place an additional 4 quarts of cold water into a 12-14 quart container. Add the hot water mixture and stir.
Places turkey breast side down into the container. Move it around gently so that the water fills the cavity and the turkey is submerged. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 12-16 hours.
Remove, drain water and pat turkey dry. Allow to sit out for 30 minutes so that it dries completely and comes to room temperature before baking.
To make the rub, place butter in a small bowl. Chop garlic finely and add to bowl. Add zest of lemon, thyme and black pepper. Mix with a fork until all is evenly combined.
Using your fingers gently work your way under the skin of the turkey breasts to create a gap. Using your fingers disperse 80 percent of the rub under the skin. Wipe the remaining rub all over the outside of the turkey.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place turkey on roasting rack in roasting pan. Place on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Cook 45 minutes. Rotate turkey 180 degrees and turn oven to 325 degrees.
Rotate turkey after one more hour. Cook until thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh (away from bone) registers 165 degrees. Remove turkey from oven. Let turkey rest on top of oven for 30 minutes.
— Jeffery Saad
No-Brine Roast Turkey
This is Dotty Griffith’s favorite roasting technique. No brine, just lots of fragrant ingredients stuffed inside the cavity of the bird. Sometimes, she’ll add alternate seasonings instead of (or in combination with) fruit and jalapeño, including sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme, a bundle of parsley or sage or a quartered onion.
1 (12–16-lb.) turkey, thawed
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
2 tsp. pepper, or to taste
1/4–1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 Tbsp. melted butter (optional)
2 apples, optional
1 orange, optional
1 lemon, optional
2 fresh jalapeños, optional
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rinse and dry turkey. Remove neck and giblet bag from the small cavity in the front, as well as the large body cavity. Use for no-fail giblet gravy (below).
Season inside turkey cavity with salt and pepper to taste. Use salt sparingly if using a prebasted turkey.
Rub exterior turkey skin generously with vegetable oil and butter, if using, and place in a large roasting pan with shallow sides.
If desired, cut apples and orange into quarters. Cut lemon in half. Pierce jalapeños in several places with a fork. Insert apple, orange, lemon pieces and jalapeños into cavity.
Roast turkey 15 to 20 minutes per pound. For most accurate gauge of doneness, use an instant-read meat thermometer. Temperature should read 180 degrees when thermometer is inserted in thickest part of thigh. Juices should run clear when thigh is pierced at the thickest part, and the leg should move easily at the joint.
The turkey should be ready about an hour before dinner is served. Loosely tent with foil to keep warm, and carve just before serving. Serves 10 to 12, with lots of leftovers.
— From “The Texas Holiday Cookbook” (Taylor Trade Publishing, $29.95) by Dotty Griffith
Dorothy’s No-Fail Giblet Gravy
2 lb. chicken or turkey necks (or a combination)
1 lb. chicken or turkey gizzards and hearts (or a combination)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup flour
3 tsp. salt, or to taste
2 tsp. pepper, or to taste
1/2 lb. chicken or turkey livers (or a combination)
2 hard-cooked eggs, optional
Rinse chicken necks, gizzards and hearts. Place in a large saucepan or stockpot. Cover with 8 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Using a large spoon, skim off foam as it accumulates during cooking. Cook until necks are soft and gizzards and hearts are tender, 2 to 3 hours.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, strain stock into clean saucepan with lid or into a rigid plastic storage container. Refrigerate to congeal fat, several hours, up to 2 days. Freeze for longer storage.
Reserve gizzards and hearts; discard necks. Chop gizzards and hearts into 1/2-inch pieces. (Refrigerate up to 2 days. Freeze for longer storage.)
To make gravy, lift off congealed fat from stock and discard. Heat stock to liquefy; reserve.
In deep saucepan or stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Add oil, then gradually stir in flour. Cook until flour is bubbly; reduce heat and cook until flour turns a rich brown, the color of cocoa.
Gradually add warm stock, stirring with a wire whisk to eliminate lumps. Cook until thickened to desired consistency, about 20 to 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, rinse livers, if using, and place in small saucepan with 1 cup water over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer until livers are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until cool. Drain livers and discard liquid. Chop livers into 1/4-inch pieces.
Stir chopped livers and reserved gizzards and hearts into gravy. If not everyone at dinner is a fan of giblet gravy, reserve some of the gravy before adding the livers, gizzards and hearts. Add chopped hard-cooked eggs, if desired. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Gravy may be refrigerated for up to 2 days before serving. Reheat to serve. Thin with defatted pan juices from turkey or with water or stock to desired consistency. Serves 16.
— From “The Texas Holiday Cookbook” (Taylor Trade Publishing, $29.95) by Dotty Griffith
Frying a turkey this year? You’re not alone, but if you find yourself with a grease fire on your hands, you’re also not alone.
Texas ranks No. 1 in the country for grease and cooking fires on Thanksgiving, and the National Fire Protection Association says that nationally, deep fryers cause more than 50 injuries and $10 million in property damage each year.
Those stats are almost enough to send some cooks back into the kitchen. If you are frying a turkey this year, here are some safety tips from the Austin Fire Department:
Don’t put too much oil in the fryer pot. Because turkey sizes vary so much, you can put the turkey in the pot with water and measure how much liquid the pot can handle.
Make sure the turkey is thawed completely. Ice and oil are a dangerous combination because the water evaporates, creating steam bubbles that pop and spray hot oil. Create enough of those steam bubbles and you’re in for a trip to the emergency room. Give the turkey at least an extra day longer in the fridge than you think it’s going to need, and pat the skin dry before frying.
Stay far away from structures. A third of fryer fires start in a garage or patio, so cook outdoors, away from buildings and covered areas and make sure the fryer isn’t set up on a wooden surface.
Don’t cover the turkey and don’t leave it alone. Someone needs to be watching the turkey in the oil at all times. The turkey should take about 45 minutes in the oil, so make sure you’re not distracted by guests, a football game or other cooking tasks.
If you do have a fire, don’t use water to try to put it out. Use a multipurpose fire extinguisher and call 911 to report it.
If you’re grilling a turkey this year, make sure you have enough charcoal on hand to maintain a temperature of 350 to 400 degrees for several hours, and place the turkey on a roasting pan with some liquid and aromatics, which will help flavor the turkey and keep the fat from dripping onto the hot coals.