Roast Turkey

All, Poultry

When roasting a turkey, your main concern is that the dark meat inside the thigh gets done enough before the breast gets over done and turns into shoe leather. Now this is tricky, because the turkey’s lying on its back with the dark meat down in the pan while the breast is up in the oven getting browner by the minute. The best solution is to start the turkey upside down and turn it over part way through the roasting. If you’ve got a big turkey and you’re not very big, you better get some help! More about that below.

There are three turkey roasting methods on Cooking Dude: Rotisserie BBQ Turkey, BBQ Turkey (shown in the photo), and Roast Turkey (this page). I personally prefer the rotisserie, but if you don’t have one, or live where you can’t barbeque in the winter, use this recipe. The up side is that the house will smell great; a benefit that’s missing when you cook outside.

I strongly recommend that you brine the turkey, starting the day before you cook it. After you thaw it (if frozen), remove and save the neck and giblets for gravy. While the turkey is in the brine, you can actually go ahead and make the gravy the day before, as I usually do. See how I make the gravy on the Rotisserie BBQ Turkey page.

You can make the stuffing from scratch, but when an excellent and easier alternative is available, I don’t go to the trouble. So I buy a couple of packages of Mrs. Cubbison’s stuffing mix (usually one regular and one cornbread), and get some other stuff to add to it, like button mushrooms, pecan pieces, chopped onion, and whatever else you like. Then follow the directions on the package, using butter and chicken broth to mix up the dressing. You’ll have some for stuffing the turkey, and more to put in a pan to bake in the oven.

You’ll need about 15 minutes of roasting per pound of turkey, so figure that out and add an hour to get ready. Remove the turkey from the brine, pat it dry, and stuff it with the dressing. Use skewers or nails to fasten it shut, and tuck the wing tips under the back. Melt some butter in a small pan, and baste the turkey with a paintbrush. Sprinkle the turkey on all sides with garlic salt and pepper (or whatever other herbs and spices you want) and put it in the roasting pan, preferably on a rack holding the bird above the bottom of the pan. Don’t get a pan with very deep sides, since that will keep the bottom of the turkey too cool compared with the rest of the oven. Put a meat thermometer inside one of the thighs without it touching a bone.

If you are going to invert the turkey, place it breast side down on the rack. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place the pan on a rack low enough so the turkey is in the middle of the oven. You know from the turkey’s weight about how long it’s going to take (about one hour per four pounds of turkey). If you’ve inverted the turkey, take the pan out of the oven, and using a wad of paper towels in each hand, turn the turkey over on its back. Continue roasting until the meat thermometer reads about 170 degrees. If you’re lucky, the breast meat will only register about 160 degrees.

If you have a pan or dish containing the extra dressing, cover it with foil and put it in the oven when the turkey has about 90 minutes to go. During the last half hour, take the foil off so the dressing can brown a little.

Take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest at least 30 minutes before carving. That lets the meat re-absorb some of the juices.

Most families have their favorite side dishes, and if you’ve got company coming over they might bring some sides along. But if you’re doing it all yourself, look through the listings on the Index page for some ideas. Our favorites include Easy Cheesy Potatoes and Pearl Onions in Cream Sauce.

Anyhow, don’t get overstressed over a holiday meal. Give a little thought about the schedule, when to start each dish, and don’t worry about keeping something warm when another item is a little late. The first time I barbequed a turkey outside, it got done an hour and a half faster than I expected! Have a glass of wine and toast the turkey jerky!

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