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Nov 8, 2011 02:08 PM

Newbie Turkey Day Questions

So, this year is my first full go at a Thanksgiving Day feast. Now, I could play it safe and roll with all of my mothers tried and tested recipes, but I wanna shake things up a bit.

I wanna do a citrus brined oven roasted turkey.

Im thinking my brine will consist of water, salt, lemon wedges, orange wedges, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and pepper.

I was going to stuff the bird with a few more lemons and oranges.

Then I was gonna rub the bird with a compound butter containing some thyme, garlic, and citrus zest, to keep the same flavors going.

My question is......does this sound right? Is it overkill to brine, stuff, and rub? Do I need to add anything? Take anything away?

My mother never brined, never rubbed, and always stuffed with stuffing, so this is all new to me.

Do I cover the bird? If so, with what? Foil? Bag? Ive even heard of a bacon fat rubbed brown paper bag?

Do I baste?

How long using what method will it take to cook a ~20# bird?

Ive also heard of people rubbing it with mayo instead of butter. Is there a major difference or advantage to one or the other?

How do you make the pan gravy? Will the gravy be too heavily flavored like citrus to be used on the mashed potatoes?

Thanks for all of your help.

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  1. First, yes, the gravy will taste like your bird.
    Next, timing... I always look it up in my BH&G cookbook, it has a chart. (and then use a thermometer)
    I baste, only because I like to do it, open the oven, look at the bird.
    I sometimes cover at the beginning, then uncover at the end. Sometimes I uncover at the beginning, then cover at the end. I use foil. Some folks use butter-drenched cheesecloth.
    I've never brined a turkey, because I buy a commercially frozen turkey (yes, I do) that is already "brined," and they always turn out moist and delicious.
    The rub and citrus inside sounds great. If you don't want citrusy gravy, buy it in a jar. yep.

    4 Replies
    1. re: wyogal

      Can you not brine a turkey that has been frozen in the supermarket? Are all supermarket frozen turkeys already brined? Or do you specifically buy a frozen already brined turkey?

      1. re: Titus0327

        They are shot up with a solution containing salt, effectively "brining" it. And covering keeps it from getting too brown.

        1. re: Titus0327

          Read the label on the turkey. Not *all* frozen turkeys are *shot up with a solution containing salt*. The label will clearly state if this is the case. You can brine a frozen turkey once you thaw it out, but only if it's natural. For example, Butterball turkey has a "basted" bird, that means it's been injected with a salt solution, and you shouldn't brine such a turkey. Butterball does also sell a "natural" turkey where the only retained water is from the cooling process, again the label will clearly state whether the bird has any additives.

          One of the trade-offs of a brined turkey is gravy - the drippings tend to be way too salty. With all the citrus you are planning to use the drippings might be too strongly flavored. I'd plan on serving the pan juices defatted but unthickened, if they taste okay. As a traditional gravy, probably not.

        2. re: wyogal

          Also, does covering the turkey provide any benefit? Any downsides?

        3. Wow, that's a lot of citrus. I think your 3 steps of citrus might be a bit much. Perhaps only using 2 of the 3 steps would suffice. Covering the bird would be up to you. I do it on the back I think the color is becoming optimal that's when I choose to cover. I don't recommend the bag. It makes takes the crispness away from the skin. Basting is completely up to you. Depends on how much you want to baby-sit your bird. As for cooking time, I would invest in a meat thermometer. My WIlliams-Sonoma thermometer is my roasting friend. Program it to the temperature of your choice (good for all meats), poke the prod into the thigh, and wait for the voice to tell you when it's done. A non-stuffed 20 lb. bird should take about 3 1/2 - 4 hours.
          Mayo is a new thing that I saw on the Voltaggio cooking special this past weekend. I think I'll try it this year. For the pan gravy, I take the drippings/fat from the bird (I've got one of those separators) and make a roux with flour. Add the turkey stock (made from boiling the turkey giblets with onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaf, salt and pepper while your bird is roasting) or chicken stock to the roux. You can add a little white or red wine to your mixture before you boil it down to your desired thickness. You can also add some fresh herbs (i.e. parsley, chives, sage, thyme, etc.).
          Good luck on pulling off your first full go. My first was 7 years ago, and as frightening as it was, I made it through just fine. This year, I'm trying Thanksgiving Bryan Voltaggio-style because I don't have an immersion circulator.

          1. Whenever someone in my family hosts Thanksgiving for the first time, I send them a copy of Thanksgiving 101. It has great basic information, planning tips, recipes for old favorites, and some new ideas. I've had mine for almost 10 years and it looks just like a cookbook should...well loved.

            All these years later I still wouldn't host a Turkey Day without it.

            1. Chris - don't sweat it. It really isn't that big a deal to roast a turkey. Go online, or hit your local library or bookstore & any basic cookbook will give you basic instructions on how to go about it without any "frou-frou" & still turning out a great bird.

              And always keep in mind that holidays like Thanksgiving are about giving thanks & getting togehter with friends & loved ones - NOT about the food. No one is going to hang you up by your thumbs if the turkey isn't Martha Stewart perfect - lol!

              1. I would make homemade chicken stock way before the day and make a lovely sauce that has nothing to do with the turkey. Saute minced onions in butter. Shallots if you like. Add flour and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add whatever liquids and herbs you like. Your chicken stock, wine, thyme, etc. Better then turkey pan juices, especially if you've brined it.