If you have tried before and the white meat of your turkey came out dry, the secret is to brine the turkey. Brining is basically submerging your turkey in a salty liquid flavored with herbs and spices. Brining makes your turkey (and any lean meat for that matter) juicier when cooked because it begins to denature the proteins, in other words, it makes the proteins deform and relax a little. Heres a quote from Chef Kenji at Serious Eats:
If you look at muscle tissue under a microscope, it looks like a speaker wire: a bunch of strands contained within an external sheath. In between the strands is water. When those bundles are heated, the heat causes the strands—the muscle fibers—to tighten up as a group. This displaces the water like when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste. When you brine a turkey and denature the muscle fibers, they don’t contract and deform as much, so not as much water is forced out.
A brined turkey will loose about 15 percent of its weight when cooked for 6 – 8 hours where an unbrined turkey will loose almost 30 percent! SO… a brined turkey will be roughly 15 percent juicier and trust me, you will notice the difference! Debbie always brines her turkey now and it is always delicious and moist. If you have never tried it, be prepared for rave reviews around your table!
I have to say that I havent tasted a ton of different stuffings for turkey, however, I have tasted a few and Debbies turkey stuffing, or dressing, is over the top good! The best I have ever tasted. And I think this year it was the best of the best! She never puts apples or any kind of fruit in it. Instead it is full of sausage, celery, and herbs. She always makes more than will fit in the bird and cooks it in a crockpot till the rest comes out of the bird and I always sneak little bowls of it when shes not looking lol. I cant stand waiting to have some! Not when I can smell it throughout the whole kitchen!
Cooking a turkey takes some preparation. Its basically a 3 day process, but only day 2 and 3 require a little work. Here are the steps:
Day 1: Thaw Your Turkey
This day is easy. If your turkey is frozen, take it out of the freezer and allow it to thaw out completely before moving on to the next step. If you bought your turkey thawed, your a step ahead! Move on to Day 2.
Day 2: The Brine and Stuffing
On day 2 you want to brine your turkey. Follow the instructions below to mix together the brining liquid. Brine your turkey for at least 12 hours overnight, but the longer the better. Doesnt that look good even just like that?!
- 40 cups water
- 2 cups salt
- 4 heads of garlic
- ¼ cup of peppercorns
- 20 bay leaves
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch rosemary
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 cup brown sugar
- In a big bot, add the water and all the ingredients.
- There is no need to take the skin off the garlic, just separate the bulbs.
- Throw in your herbs stems and all, just give them a good wash before hand.
- Bring the works to a boil for 15 mins and turn it off. Set it aside to cool before you put the turkey in it.
- Add the turkey to the cooled liquid and leave it there for at least 12 hours.
Have I mentioned yet, that this stuffing/dressing is the best I have ever tasted?! I can just smell it right now… Mmmmmm
This stuffing is really easy. You can buy your sausage pre-ground and not in casings but make sure you dont get a spicy sausage. There is a ton of veggies in this recipe. Dont be scared…. Make the whole thing. Trust me, people will eat it! Its best to have lots of leftovers for turkey sandwiches!
Make sure not to add any salt to the stuffing if you are brining your turkey. The turkey will release some of the salty brine water and flavor the stuffing with it.
- 5 lbs sausage meat
- 3 whole celery bunches, diced
- 8 onions, diced
- 300 gr of bread, day old at least and cut into cubes
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- ¼ cup chopped thyme
- ½ cup rosemary
- 1 - 2 tsp pepper
- NO SALT IF YOU ARE BRINING YOUR TURKEY
- Cheesecloth bag for stuffing the turkey
- In a frying pan, add the chopped celery and onions. Once they are tender put them into a large bowl.
- Next cook the sausage in the same pan. If it has lots of fat, make sure to drain it or remove it with a turkey baster.
- Add the sausage to the large bowl as well.
- Then add the fresh herbs and bread cubes and mix it all together.
- Cover it and put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook your turkey.
- When you are ready to cook your turkey, fill a cheesecloth bag with the stuffing and place inside the turkey while its cooking.
- Any remaining stuffing can be cooked by itself in a crock pot.
Day 3: Cook Your Turkey
In the morning of day 3, you need to figure out how big your turkey is. It takes 20 mins per pound for your turkey to cook so figure out when you are going to need to put it in the oven and plan your time accordingly. You want your turkey cooked about 1 hour before you serve dinner.
Next get your roaster ready. Add carrots, celery, and onions to the bottom of your roasting pan so that your gravy gets all that flavor. You can just set the turkey right on top of the veggies if you like, however using a rack on top of the veggies or a silicone turkey lifter works great and makes it easier to lift the turkey out of the pan once its cooked.
Pull out your turkey out of the brine and get it ready to cook. You need to rinse your turkey really well. If you dont rinse it well, the meat will be salty. Pat your turkey dry with a clean tea towel. A dry turkey will brown much nicer.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees .
Time to stuff the bird… Presidents Choice makes these little stuffing bags made from cheesecloth that are perfect for your turkey stuffing. Im sure there are others, that’s just the brand that Debbie uses. Put a little bit of stuffing in the bag and push it into the turkey. Continue filling the rest of the bag till its full and tie the bag nice and tight.
Tying up your bird will ensure that it cooks evenly and the wings and legs don’t get cooked too quickly and get dry. Take some butcher string and tie the wings so that they fit snug to the bird. Tie the drumsticks as well. For a short video on how to truss up a turkey, click here.
Place the turkey in a roasting pan breast up. Drizzle olive oil all over it and season with pepper and poultry spice. NO SALT. Throw a few sprigs of rosemary under the skin with some butter. Throw some paprika on him if you like for color.
If you have a meat thermometer, insert it just above the thigh bone pointing towards the body. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you should seriously consider investing in one. They make cooking a turkey, or roast beef to the correct temperature much easier than just timing it. If you have to time the turkey, remember that it is 20 mins per pound. Don’t cook it any more than that for sure!
Your turkey is ready for the oven!
Make sure you put the turkey in the oven with enough time left before dinner for it to rest for a full hour. This will result in a much juicier bird than cutting into the meat right away. While the bird cooks all the juices get pulled to the center and when you allow your meat to rest, the juices are re-distributed again.
Throw your bird in the oven!
Get your Veggies ready
While you are waiting for it to cook, you have lots of time to get the rest of your dinner prepped. Wash and peel your potatoes for the mashed potatoes and put them in a covered pot of water with a good pinch of salt and a few garlic cloves if you like garlic in your mash. Clean your veggies for your veggie side. We usually do roast broccoli and carrots (sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a little herbes de provence) roasted in the oven at 350 for 15 – 20 mins. The carrots usually need to go in first and then the broccoli after.
Then sit back for a bit and have a glass of wine or better yet, have one of our cocktails!
When the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165° in the breast, or 175° to 180° in the thigh, hes done. Take him out of the oven.
Start the heat on your potatoes so that they come to a boil. Boil till they are soft and mash them up good with some butter, salt and a little milk or cream. Ive use coconut cream before and its great.
In the mean time take the turkey out of the roaster, take the stuffing out first and place it in a bowl or add it to the rest of the stuffing in a crock pot. Keep it covered and hot! Tent the turkey with a bunch of tin foil so that it can rest and stay warm. Tuck the foil around the turkey to prevent the heat from escaping. Set the turkey aside out of your way.
Make the Gravy
Remove the vegetables from the pan and discard. Pour the drippings into a fat separator if you have one. These are such nice little tools for making gravy without all the fat! If you don’t, place the gravy in a see through container and wait till the fat separates. Then scoop off as much fat as you can. Return the drippings to the gravy roaster and heat the roaster on the stove at medium high. Add 2 boxes of low sodium chicken broth and stir. Using about 1/2 a cup of flour for the gravy or 1/4 cup of cornstartch, make a slurry with water and add it to thicken the gravy. (A slurry is flour or cornstarch mixed with a little water. This will make sure you dont get lumps in your gravy) Season with pepper and salt if you need it, but taste it before adding salt. Pour it into a gravy boat.
Carve up your masterpiece and serve it with the mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, stuffing, and of course, cranberry sauce. Don’t ever forget the cranberry sauce! And don’t forget to take a picture of all your guests sitting at the table like we did! At least we got a couple pictures of our dinner. We were pretty focused on dinner. That’s our story and were stickin to it…
It may seem like a lot of work! And it is… but its worth it! Just look at that bird… Its a thing of beauty. I could never be a vegetarian.
- Large turkey breast
- 4 carrots washed and chopped in big pieces
- 4 celery stalks, washed and chopped in big pieces
- 1 onion
- few tbsp. olive oil
- 3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary
- couple pats of butter
- sprinkle of paprika
- butchers twine
FOR THE GRAVY
- drippings from the turkey, strained of fat
- 2 boxes of chicken broth (900 mls each)
- ½ cup flour or ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 cup water
- salt and pepper to taste
- Throw the veggies into a roaster pan.
- Stuff your turkey with stuffing, and truss it up for roasting. Put it into the pan.
- Rub with olive oil and stuff butter and rosemary under the skin.
- Season with pepper only, NO SALT.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 mins per pound or until your meat thermometer reaches 175 degrees in the thigh.
- Remove from the oven, remove the stuffing and set aside to keep warm.
- Tent the turkey with foil to let it rest and keep warm for about an hour.
- Once the gravy and the rest of the dinner is ready and the turkey has been sitting for a while, carve it up and serve to your guests.
FOR THE GRAVY
- Discard all the veggies in the roaster.
- Separate the fat from the drippings of the turkey. Add it back to the roaster and head on medium high.
- Add 2 boxes of chicken broth.
- Mix the flour or cornstarch with the water and make a slurry to add to the gravy. Once you add it, cook for a while and bring to a boil. The gravy will thicken.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve in a gravy boat.