It's never too early to plan a holiday meal, and if you are the holiday cook you need weeks of preparation for cooking your family a delicious meal. One of my favorite holidays to cook for is Thanksgiving. Waking up early and preparing the bird for an afternoon dinner is a tradition, but so is brining the turkey the night before.
For many of us, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a crucial day of preparation for all the food about to be consumed tomorrow. If you are like me, you already have everything bought and you are just waiting to start prepping.
I like to organize the next 24 hours on paper, and I suggest you do the same.
This article should act as a guide, a refresher or just a reminder of why you only show up to eat on the holidays.
Turkey Brine Process
Now that I have my bird, I am concentrating on getting my 12-hour brine together. If you never brined a turkey before, there is still time for you to do so the day before. Just get a container large enough to submerge the turkey completely. This can act as the thawing period for those of you using a frozen bird.
I live by brining any poultry ever since discovering it awhile back from a few fellow foodies. The flavor and tenderness that you will accomplish will make you a hero among your family.
Brines are composed of salt and various spices of your choosing. Salt is the key to any brine as it acts as the introduction between spice and meat. It penetrates the meat and opens it up, welcoming in all the other flavors you are incorporating.
Just be cautious because too much salt can overpower the flavor. I like to use a handful per bird as a good rule of thumb.
Turkey Brine Ingredients
My turkey brine consists of salt, 1 cup minced garlic, 1/2 cup basil, 1/2 cup oregano, 1/2 cup rosemary, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 sliced lemons and 2 diced sweet apples.
I like to combine everything into warm water and then pour it into my larger container that has the turkey fully submerged in ice and water. If you are using a frozen turkey you can get away with not using as much ice, just be cautious of where you are storing the turkey so that it doesn’t get warmer than 50 degrees.
The rest of today will consist of getting my cooking area all set up, making the stuffing and getting the other dishes ready. I like to make sure that first thing in the morning I have as little as possible to do to get my turkey in the oven and cooking.
My table and carving area are all laid out today so that I can focus on making sure the timing of the other dishes cooking can be handled seamlessly.
The next morning it’s time to remove the turkey from the brine. Do not wash or submerge it into clean water after removal. Simply pat it down with a paper towel. I believe that if you wash it you will remove a little of the spices hanging onto the meat that will eventually cook off or become part of the skin flavor. It’s time to put your stuffing in, and if you are going to tie it up and rotisserie it, do so now.
How to Cook a Turkey
It's important to understand turkey cooking times and what temperature the insides of the turkey should be in order to serve. Use the turkey cooking times chart below as a reference for how to cook your turkey.
For you oven cookers, this year you can also try cooking it breast down. This method actually allows the breast meat to be in a constant state of basting. For the last 45 minutes, flip it breast up to finish.
Once you hit 165 to 170 degrees internally, your bird is ready to sit and rest out of the heat. Allow at least 15 minutes for the meat to relax and replenish itself. After this resting period, it’s ready to be carved and served.
If you carve and place it into a chafing dish, I like to have turkey broth heated and ready. Use the remaining juice in the cooking pan as your base for gravy. Just throw it in a skillet and simmer, adding flour until it thickens.
Get ready to enjoy the best turkey of your cooking career!