People often love or hate preparing the bird for Thanksgiving—it’s big, takes a long time to cook and people wonder if they’re cooking it properly. It can be daunting and intimidating, especially when it’s the star of the show. I have learned over the years tricks and techniques that anyone can master to create that perfectly roasted turkey.
For starters, I always use a fresh turkey and not a frozen one. I also tend to work with an organic or kosher turkey. Kosher turkeys are salted and flavorful. While they may be a bit more expensive, the quality of the poultry is high, and they are leaner and cleaner birds.
The Perfect Thanksgiving Day Turkey
- 1 organic and/or kosher turkey
- 1 tart orange, cut in half
- 4-6 ounces fat (butter, margarine, chicken schmaltz or olive oil)
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Stuffing, at cold temperature (optional but recommended)
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 whole onion, peeled
- 2-3 fat carrots
- 2 bay leaves
- Unwrap the turkey and dry with paper towels. Rub and wash the inside and outside of the turkey with the orange. The acid will help to tenderize and clean the turkey. Place the turkey in a roasting pan. (I love throwaway aluminum tins.)
- Melt 4-6 ounces of your favorite fat. Salt and pepper the turkey. Cut a large piece of cheesecloth that can cover the turkey. Scrunch up the cheesecloth, place it in the melted fat, then drape the cloth entirely over the turkey.
- To stuff or not to stuff? That is the question. Don’t be afraid to try this; it yields luscious results. It gets very moist, so I always have an extra pan of stuffing I cook alongside so I can mix the two. Stuff cold-temperature stuffing in a cold turkey. Stuff loosely and gently. Stuff it! You’ll love it!
- Your turkey is wrapped and ready to roast. Add chicken stock to the bottom of your roasting pan. Then add onion, carrots and bay leaves.
- Place in a 325-degree oven and roast 20 minutes per pound. Every 30 minutes, baste generously with the poultry juices. Don’t do this with the oven open; place the roasting pan on top of the stove to baste. Basting is an important step; it will make the turkey golden brown and juicy. With a meat thermometer, check the turkey according to your timing; the internal temperature should reach 165 degrees. When it does, remove from oven and let rest for 45-60 minutes.
- Remove the stuffing first and place in a dish. Cut into the leg and thigh first and set aside. Slice the breast meat and then take apart the very tender and sweet dark meat. (The thigh is my favorite cut!)