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Nov 3, 2008 09:42 AM

roasting a 22 lb turkey- please advise

I am planning to roast a 22-24 lb free range, fresh (not frozen) organic turkey for Thanksgiving this year and would love some advice. I've never cooked one this big and would ideally like to brine it but can only find recipes for brining and cooking a 11-14 pounder. And I'm unsure of the temperature and appropriate cooking time for a tukey this size. Anyone tackled a bird this big that has some tips to share?

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  1. Definitely invest in an oven thermometer AND a meat thermometer, if you do not already own them. Brining will give you some wiggle-room, making it harder to overcook. Butterball's hotline/website should help you with time and temp. If you are in a cold enough climate, you can brine on/in an unheated porch or garage. Brining instructions never mention that it takes a long time to get the salt dissolved. I do that on the stove, boiling it in a small amount of water till dissolved. Once that has cooled, then chilled, I dilute it further to make the desired volume of brine. This means dissolving the salt at least a day before the thurkey will be roasted.

    1. Don't know about brining, but I have found that starting the bird breast side down, then turning it to one side, then to the other, and finished breast side up retains moisture in the breast while getting the dark meat properly cooked. I use those blue Orca gloves to turn the bird.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Marsha

        Opps, this is in respond to ajaxshazam not Marsha.

        As greygarious pointed out you must have an oven thermometer AND a meat thermometer.

        The major problem I find with a large bird (turkey or chicken) is that the breast and thigh never cook at the same time. Once the breast is cooked, the leg & thigh are not. And once the leg and thigh have reach 160 ºf the breast is overdone. I hate overdone breast meat. Now I know someone will say that they can roast a large bird without drying out the breast. For me, there must be clear liquid in the breast meat, otherwise it is dry imho.

        The way that I like to roast a whole turkey is to start two or three days before I serve the bird. The reason why is that I can almost roast the bird and also make stock from the bones. I never stuff the bird with any type of stuffing for a few reasons, one is to make sure that the stuffing is brought up to a proper temperature 160ºf, the breast will be over done. Since I’m going to make stock and also a sauce from the stock to serve with the bird, I can moisten the stuffing with stock or sauce and cook it separate from the bird.

        To begin with what I like is to make a compound butter using fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage (be carful with sage it is a strong herb), parsley, thyme, little bit of garlic, salt & pepper, and the zest of 1 organic lemon. Very carefully I lift the skin from the meat at the breast, and then take the handle of a wooden spoon and carefully push the spoon between the skin and meat, so that the skin is now loose. DO NOT POKE A WHOLE IN THE SKIN, the butter will run out. Using your finger you can also loosen the skin down near the back and leg. Take the soft compound butter and a little at a time place in the butter between the skin and meat, push in down and around the breast. Also, place some into the thigh and leg if possible, short fingers have difficulty here. Do not use hard butter or a tool to push the butter. You do not want to puncture the skin, otherwise the butter with just flow into the bottom if the pan. Doing this will provide flavour and moisture, butter makes everything better. Season with salt & pepper the out side and inside of the bird and rub any left over butter compound on the outside. You can place onion and a sliced lemon inside the cavity of the bird. And then tie up the legs so that the bird will cook evenly.

        For the pan, I loosely place some of the fresh herbs on the bottom. I also slice up some onion, carrots, and some celery so the bird can sit comfortably while in the oven.

        I crank up the oven to 400ºf about 15-20 minutes before I put the bird in, that way the oven is nice and hot. With an oven thermometer you will know what the actual temperature of the oven is.

        After placing the bird uncovered in the oven I turn down the oven to 350ºf and roast until the thigh reaches about 140-150 ºf. There is no way to determine how long to roast the bird without a meat thermometer. Each time you open the oven door to baste, the temp drops. And also, not all ovens are calibrated to heat the oven to the temperature that the knob on the oven is set to. Hence way an oven thermometer is required in all ovens.

        During the roasting I will based the bird at least every 20 minutes. After I have some liquid in the bottom of the pan, I will pour over the bird a half bottle of dry white wine. You can not add wine to the bird unless there is some liquid in the pan; the sugars in the wine will burn.

        Once the bird has reached 145-150 ºf temperature in the thigh, remove the bird from the oven and allow to cool. Once the bird is cool enough, place it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. The liquid in the pan must be saved. The solids can be tossed into the recycling bin, including the onion and lemon for inside the bird. After taking the bird out of the oven the bird will continue to cook, it might go up 5-or 10 degrees more

        Once the bird is cold, you can remove each breast in one solid piece with a sharp knife. Also, remove the dark meat as best as possible. Place all the meat back into the fridge. Take the carcass and the liquid from the pan and you can now make stock with the bones. If there are any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, which I doubt because the bird sat on the mirepoix, you should remove then and add it to the stock pot. Once you have your stock, takes 3-6 hours of simmering, you can then make a great sauce. You should leave a cup or two of stock to moisten the meat.

        To finish cooking/heating the turkey. Take the cold breast and slice it and place it on a pan and heat in a 350 ºf oven for 20 minutes or so. You want to heat the meat and it will also finish cooking. Lightly season the meat with salt & pepper. You should moisten the meat with some of the left over stock, don’t use all the stock, you don’t want soup, just brush the meat with the stock.

        It seems like a lot of work, but the results imho are well worth the work and time.

      2. we always brine our turkey the night before. I would make the brine a few days in advance. One thing we do is cook it at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Then remove from oven and cover breast with layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees.

        Brining is SO worth the extra effort. Makes a yummy and moist turkey.

        We cooked a big turkey like that once when we hosted thanksgiving overseas. Make sure you have a pan big enough to cook it in. Also, if you stuff it then its going to take a lot longer to cook. :)

        1. Bon Appetit had recipes for salted turkeys, in essence, coating the turkey with salt and letting it sit in the fridge, rather than in a salt solution. I did this over the weekend with great results. My bird was small but I cooked it at 375 for 12 min per pound

          1. I am also roasting a 22 pounder this Thanksgiving. This is what I have found out so far:

            1. Unless you are considering presenting the turkey at the table, you could break down the bird and cook the dark and white meat separately.
            2. Brine it. I did this last year (I think the bird was 16-18 pounds) and it did wonders.
            3. Do a butter rub, especially under the skin on the breast.
            4. If you can handle such a large, hot bird, try cooking it breast side down and flipping during the last hour.
            5. Or, alternatively, cover the breast with foil/cheesecloth and remove during the last hour. This helps ensure that the white meat does not cook too fast.

            Good luck!