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Nov 10, 2008 08:12 AM

Turkey Procedure Help!

Hello All,

I am making the turkey for the first time this year at my families Thanksgiving feast. Fortunately, I have a small family and a 14 pound Diestel Turkey will be sufficient to feed us all. I just ordered the turkey this weekend and am looking forward to the experience of cooking a fresh bird.

My question is what procedure you follow when making an oven-roasting a turkey. There is so much information out there that I just want to know how to get the best results. I am planning to put the bird into brine 14-20 hours before roasting but am lost at this point. Should I let the bird come to room temp, a slight chill, leave it in the fridge till the last second?

Your best procedures for moist turkey with crispy skin are appreciated and thanks in advance!

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  1. You've got yourself a nice sized bird, good job. Too many people roast these absolute giants and it's so much harder to get a good, moist meat.

    I think brining is a great idea and I think a room temp bird helps greatly. If you want to give yourself a bit of help, consider making an incision (just a cut, not all the way through) in between the thigh and the drumstick on the side/underside of the leg, not the top, and another incision where the wing meets the breast. These 2 spots are often the last to cook through and giving the oven heat a "head start" works wonders.

    For simplicity and speed and crispy skin, this method is one I've used several times and it has come out great. I would adjust the temperature of this recipe though - try pulling your turkey out of the oven when the temp hits 155-160. It will continue to rise at least 10 degrees if not 15 with an oven that hot. The USDA reccomends turkey meat to reach a temperature of 165 to be done. By pulling your bird out when it reaches 160ish, it will continue to rise to at least 170.

    1 Reply
    1. re: HaagenDazs

      If you're stuffing the bird, it's the stuffing temperature that you need to focus on not the meat outside the bone. I guess that's why I always cook my stuffing separately. By the time the stuffing gets to 165 degrees the meat is often over cooked.
      I agree with your choice of bird size. HaagenDazs makes an excellent point that "Too many people roast these absolute giants and it's so much harder to get a good, moist meat. "
      IMHO, two smaller birds are always better than one monster.
      On the subject of brine - your post suggests that you've done it before. I suspect that means you've already got enough experience to know how to handle that task. I recall my first brining experience (and I used a recipe that was highly thought of by friends) which produced a wonderfully moist and crispy baked chicken that tasted more like a bovine salt lick than baked chicken.

    2. Good decision on the brine! I've been using this technique for the past 5-ish years and going forward, would never NOT do it. Great flavor and skin. HOWEVER, your brining time of 14-20 hours seemed a little much to me, so I did a google search and I am correct. This is much too long. In the case of brining - more is NOT better and will actually turn the cooked meat to a water-logged, rubbery consistency. YUK! I know from experience.

      Also note the roasting time - brined birds cook more quickly. And HD is correct about removing the bird BEFORE it hits the ideal temp - otherwise, it will be overcooked.

      For point of reference, I brine a 6 lb turkey breast and it for about 3 hours which provides plenty of flavor. The first time, I did it 12 hours and ended up with the fore-mentioned rubbery result.

      3 Replies
      1. re: CocoaNut

        As a side note to CocoaNut's post; there are different strength brine recipes out there and some will work faster or slower depending on the salt/sugar concentration. You can brine a bird for 48 hours if you want but you'll have to adjust the solution. I doubt you'll find a recipe that calls for a 48 hour brine (unless you're making corned beef!) but do pay attention to the size of the turkey and time limits involved in whatever recipe you use.

        One other thing to consider is the sugar content of your brine and the oven temperature. If you're not careful, you can potentially burn the skin because it has been soaking in a part sugar solution. In that regard, I would suggest starting your turkey in a lower oven (375?) and then blasting it for the last 15 to 20 minutes to crisp and brown the skin. Just a thought...

        1. re: HaagenDazs

          I am realtively new to cooking. I just got into it a little over a year ago after I graduated and haven't looked back. This will be my first time brining a roasting a whole turkey. I've used brine recipes for chicken breasts and pork roasts, but never a whole bird.

          I will be more cognizant of checking the brining time vs. turkey size in the recipes. It would be a disaster if my first turkey came out horribly. We would have to go eat at a restaturant, like at the end of "The Christmas Story."

          1. re: gmk1322

            Today is only November 11th. Not counting today you still have 16 days until Thanksgiving. If I were you I would go buy a medium/large size chicken and do a trial run this weekend or next. It will give you something good to eat and will let you see what the brine flavor is like, what the color looks like after brining and roasting, etc. That will give you some confidence on the big day.

        1. re: mpalmer6c

          The ratio at this site is in line with what I use:

          salt/liquid ratio is 2 cups kosher/2 gallons liquid. If using table salt, 1 cup.

          After that, anything in my fridge/panytry is fair game. I prefer using syrup/molasses/brown sugar to white refined sugar. Can't really make an argument as to "why" though.