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Nov 10, 2012 09:45 PM

Fact Check My First Turkey Plan

So this is my first, been doing a lot of research from various sites and I have come up with a plan. The deal is, I need someone to point out if I am making any huge mistakes that will make me regret trying it again.

1. Dry brine frozen turkey 3 days in advance. Rinse, salt and keep in a plastic bag in the bottom of fridge. - Sort of the Zuni Chicken Method (Judy Rogers) but for Turkey.

2. Remove all the interior parts, neck, rinse off all the salt, pat dry.

3. Make a compound butter with fresh sage, onion and garlic powder and spread it under the skin of the breasts and legs.

4. Stuff the inside with aromatics: an onion, some garlic and red apple, fresh sage, thyme. Tie up the legs.

5. Refrigerate 24 hours uncovered to dry out the skin.

6. Bring to room temp 1 hour. Rub all outer side with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh cracked back pepper.

7. Move to a half sheet pan with a metal baking rack.- Alton Brown method in stead of the roasting pan

8. Bake on convection 325F lower part of oven until the internal temp reaches 165F in the breast.

9. Rest for 20 minutes before carving.

10. Chinese menu by phone just in case.

That's my plan, the parts I am sort of confused about is brining. I have done a dry brine on a chicken before and it turned out great. I want to do this to a frozen turkey, probably a Butterball but people here say not to because it MIGHT get too salty. Butterball says you DONT HAVE TO but they dont say not to. The thing is, on other sites, people said it was no problem and on Chow most of the "don't do it" crowd have not personally tried it. If you have ever brined a frozen Butterball wet or dry, please chime in.

I am really unsure about is internal temp. My oven guide says 180F. That's probably too dry right? USDA says at least 165, and several people on the Food Network say 160F. Also, where do I put the probe, the breast or the thigh? I keep seeing different references, will they be 2 different temps?

I don't plan to flip, baste or cover with foil - Alton Brown method. As I plan to use convention, I will also keep it at a set temp instead of 2 temp methods some people use. This gets me even browning with I do it with chicken.

According to this article, you can dry brine a turkey from frozen, and most frozen have some kind of salt injection from what I have read.

Thanks in Advance

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  1. Well, I'd highly recommend a spatchcock because it cooks faster and tastes better and is easier BUT the only real change I'd make is to refrigerate the board without the bag; use the air to dry out the skin a la Zuni

    4 Replies
    1. re: JudiAU

      Spatchcock? I had to look that up! Your way over my head. But I will maybe try that once I get me feet wet. Thanks.

      1. re: kjonyou

        Your butcher can remove the backbone. Really, though I suggest it because it is much easier then dealing with a whole bird.

        1. re: JudiAU

          Your butcher could probably do that, my butcher wont even grind beef! Actually, in fairness, they are not butchers. All the stores within a 10 mile radius of me are big chains and the people behind the counter in white coats only wrap the food up like a butcher but don't actually cut or trim. Real butchers are scarce in my neighborhood.

      2. re: JudiAU

        While I gleefully spatchcock any other kind of bird any other day of the year, somehow I just don't see much appeal in setting a turkey down in front of my guests for a Thanksgiving meal that visually resembles roadkill. (because much as I like spatchcocked birds, particularly for the grill, they still look to me like they've met an unfortunate end out on the highway)

        We might not have a Norman Rockwell meal with Grandma and Grandpa setting down the roasted bird, but I'm not ready to step that far away from the look of a golden brown bird in the round.

      3. Remember that millions of people roast a turkey every year....and most of them come out completely edible.


        Your plan sounds fine...but yes, 165F is the correct temperature -- I check both the breast and the thigh, because the breast will be done before the thigh. 180 will earn you dry, cottony turkey.

        Do have a roll of foil on hand -- if your bird is browning too fast, you can slow things down.

        1. My only concern is that the sheet pan won't have enough volume for the drippings. Be sure to watch very closely to ensure you don't lose all of that wonderful juice.

          I think that will be one terrific turkey. I also feel that 1st time turkey-cookers worry about it far too much. As long as you get the temp right, it's pretty tough to mess up a turkey IMO.

          8 Replies
          1. re: CanadaGirl

            I agree that the sheet pan might not be the right choice. The idea of using a rack, is simply to raise the bird above the juices, allowing even heat circulation and even browing. I would simply use a rack over a roasting pan, so you don't get a huge mess. While I think you have a good plan, you might be making more out of it than necessary! In my experience the biggest issue with turkey is that people tend to overcook it. Turkey is not very forgiving and is easily dried out. I would use the meat thermo, and remove the bird and cover with foil when it reaches 160. Keep in mind that it will continue cooking for the next 5 or 10 minutes after its removed from the oven.

            Good Luck!


            1. re: Burghfeeder

              I wouldn't go with a sheet pan either, too flimsy, too shallow for the juices - use a heavy, shallow roasting pan with a rack instead. I don't bother to make a compound butter, I just shove softened butter under the skin and then whole sage leaves. I cover the turkey with cheesecloth dipped in melted butter, it protects the breast but still allows for browning, and I baste it. A lot. And try to relax, just think of it as a really big chicken.

              1. re: Athena

                Love the big chicken reference! I always wondered why people got so scared of cooking a turkey. I don't even bother basting anymore--shove it in the oven and then it's strictly on its own. (Once did the start-it-breast-down-then-flip: didn't see any difference, so that's one less hassle I can ignore.) Pull it out at 160 degrees, tent (i.e., ignore it some more). Slice when I'm good and ready with all the other stuff. No stress dinner. Love good food, but I've gotten lazy as I've aged (or is that wiser?).

              2. re: Burghfeeder

                Definitely rethink the sheet pan. If you don't have or are able to borrow a roasting pan, there is no shame in buying one of those disposable foil jobs from the supermarket. Our T-days are usually away from home in a resort location so we often do a throw-away pan. Everything works fine, even the gravy made from pan morsels.

                1. re: tcamp

                  I've done the disposable pans, too, but 2 recommendations: either use 2 pans together for add'l. strength, or use 1 disposable pan placed on that sheet pan. Stability beats pan juices splattered all over the floor (what a waste!)...

                  1. re: pine time

                    Ok, I hear you guys, sheet pan not a good idea. I forgot about disposables, thanks for the double line tip too.

                    1. re: kjonyou

                      I've re-read my initial post, and believe I was not 100% clear about my method. I roast my turkey (and all roasted meat) in a rack above a roasting pan of the appropriate size. Same idea as your sheet pan idea, but with lots of room for the juices. I agree that inside the roasting pan, where the sides of the on shelter some of the meat, is not ideal.

                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                        It's pretty easy to put a rack inside the roasting pan -- or to use ropes/balls of foil to prop the bird up in the pan so the heat can get to and brown the bird properly.

                        easier to prop the bird up than it is to have the juices overflowing a sheet pan....

            2. You can definitely dry brine a turkey from frozen; that's how I always do it and it works like a charm. However, I don't think I've ever done it to a Butterball - I usually buy natural turkeys that aren't injected with solution. However, I wouldn't hesitate to dry brine a Butterball either - the textural problems that arise with double brining are mostly due to excess water, and since you won't be introducing any more water, you should be ok. It could come out too salty, but I would probably do it anyway and just use a little less salt than I otherwise might. The skin of a dry-brined, air-dried turkey is just TOO good to forgo that step!

              1. Brining a frozen turkey. Doesn't that mean drippings can't be used for gravy? Must admit I would never go through the trouble of brining a turkey. Lately we've gotten a heritage one and it is much better but even if it wasn't I don 't think turkey is worth the effort.

                5 Replies
                1. re: escondido123

                  No, I've never had a problem with too-salty drippings. I just buy a frozen bird on the Saturday or Sunday before Thanksgiving and let it thaw in the fridge till Monday, at which point it's still half frozen. I pull off the wrapper and any big ice chunks and rub the bird down with 3-4 tablespoons of kosher salt, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it sit until Wednesday morning. On Wednesday morning I take off the plastic wrap, pull out the giblets and stick it back in the fridge, uncovered, until Thursday.

                  I don't particularly care for turkey but the dry brine plus air drying produces the BEST SKIN EVER, which for me is the only part of a turkey worth eating. My guests and husband, who like turkey, claim that the meat is very tasty and succulent as well, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I don't overcook it than the brining process. BTW, when it comes time to cook it, I cut out the backbone, spatchcock and roast it at high temp (400-450) the whole time. Quick, takes up less oven space and great results every time.

                  1. re: biondanonima

                    Better you than me. We're discussing a stuffed crown roast of pork with all the trimmings--we love pork.

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      I did have an almost too salty chicken gravy once this way. However, for the Turkey, I plan to buy some wings the same day I buy the turkey. Then roast them in a pan and use the drippings to make the gravy a day ahead of time then reheat at Turkey time. That lets me control the salt and also gives me time to prep the sides for serving while the bird is resting.

                      1. re: kjonyou

                        Don't just roast them and use the drippings - take those turkey wings and make Martha Stewart's brown turkey stock, you can make it now and freeze it:


                        1. re: Athena

                          Ah, Martha, well that is the same thing I Tyler Florence do a few years back on the Food Network. He roasted the turkey wings with some herbs, saved the drippigs, then tossed the wings into a large stock pot with the usually suspects and made a turkey stock to mix into a roux from the turkey drippings.

                          Either way, this makes an excellent gravy when doing with with chicken. I wonder why more people have not done this in the past instead of last minute on the stove when everything else has to come out.