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Oct 6, 2012 07:36 PM

Tips on cooking a turkey properly

After my last post about how to cook pork loin (turned out awesome!), I am back looking for advice on how to cook a pretty small turkey for my wife and I.

I want something moist and flavorful and was wondering if anyone has any tips. Since my last post I have invested in one of those meat thermometers that goes inside your oven and can be read on the outside so any advice on what temperatures and what prep to do would be great.

I don't often have the chance to cook but I have a day off soon and the wife fancied a turkey dinner. The turkey is only 8lbs so it's not exactly big. Thanks in advance :)

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  1. The best thing you could do for it is rinse it out, dry it with paper towels, then set it on a rack , over a sheet pan, and rub it all over, even pour some in the cavity, with at least a couple of tablespoons of kosher salt. I'm lowballing the estimate of salt, with a 12-16 lb bird, I would use at least a quarter cup. Leave it in the coldest part of your fridge, uncovered, for at least a day, best case two. It will make the bird incredibly juicy, and the skin beautifully brown and crispy. Roast it uncovered at 325 degrees until you get a 165 temp reading from the thigh, without touching the bone. Let it rest before carving for at least 30 minutes. If its starts browning too much before you get the temp up, tent some foil over the breast. Better to get it out a bit early so as not to dry out the breast. You can always carve it, take the breasts out & plate them, and put the rest of the bird, the dark meat, either carved or not, back in the oven to cook a bit more. Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

      Can you just confirm something for me here, you are talking about simply sprinkling salt on the turkey right, not making some sort of water/salt solution and soaking the turkey in that. So in essence it's a rub?

      What other flavours can you add to the salt to infuse it with some more flavour?

      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

        You don't say if you wipe off the excess salt before roasting.

      2. The number one thing you can do to yield moist meat is not overcook it. Pull it as soon as the internal temperature of the breast hits 150 degrees F. It will coast past this yielding extremely moist meat that is perfectly safe to eat.

        To ensure the breast meat and leg meat is done at the same time, a very effective trick is to bring the bird to room temperature for an hour or so on the counter, but during this time keep the breasts covered with bags of ice. This will keep the breast meat cold while the rest of the bird comes to room temperature. This helps give the leg meat a head start thus helping the entire bird hit the proper internal temperatures at the same time.

        1. Like the pork loin...I'm going to suggest you roast low and slow....especially if you want moist breast meat. To crisp the skin, all you need to do is finish with a high heat blast. The temperature I select depends on how much time and the size of the bird....also, whether or not I choose to remove the back for making stock for gravy. If you do not care about the presentation, you can remove the back, remove the leg and thigh, and split the breastbone to reduce the overall cooking time. The last Hotel Breast I roasted for 7.5 hours total time at 190*.....but 225-275* also works very well to ensure even cooking without drying out.

          1. Boy, I could have written the prior two posts myself. Low & slow, and pulling at 150F are the keys. Perfect moist Turkey every time. Ignore the USDA yahoos whose only goal is to yield dry overcooked bird. 1.21 and 4under know their stuff. Listen to them.

            The two-day air-drying is a great idea too, but not if you have an injected or "basted" bird, as it already has a salt brine in it. If this is the case, follow the process outlined but use an herb rub instead of salt. Give it two days in the fridge as outlined and follow the cooking directions given in the other two posts and you'll never do Turkey any other way.

            3 Replies
            1. re: acgold7

              Thanks for all the replies, I think I will go with the whole two day salt thing and cooking it slow. Few quick queries though:

              1. Using the above method do I need to rub butter on it before roasting? I saw a clip of Gordon Ramsey lathering his turkey with butter and stuffing onions in it. I don't plan on making any gravy or even stuffing the bird so I am insure what to do here.

              2. Should I put bacon on top of it (again something I saw Ramsey do), or is there little point?

              3. Do I need to baste it at all, or is it best to simply just let it cook on it's own?

              4. I read something about cooking the turkey upside down, anyone ever heard of this.

              Thank you all.

              1. re: Dean_UK

                Not necessary to use butter if you dry brine. The dry brine will help cook it faster & brown it better anyway, butter is really not necessary.

                Same with the bacon, I made a turkey breast wrapped in bacon once, Seemed unnecessary, the fat does baste the breast, but it really doesn't add appreciative flavor....

                Yes, I still baste my bird. And pour a cup of white wine over it at some point. Flavors the drippings nicely, if using for a gravy, which is always nice.

                Yes, I've started the bird off as breast down, then flip halfway through the time. Hard to say if it really works well, but if you don't have a nonstick rack in your roasting pan, you risk ripping the skin on the breast, if it sticks..... Not really worth it unless you don't care about the skin or looks of it, but the skin does moisten & protect the delicate breast meat from drying out.

                Hope this helps!

                1. re: Dean_UK

                  From experience years ago, trying to flip a whole turkey from breast-side-down half way through cooking was a nightmare, and didn't make a better bird. Save yourself the grief on that one.