Friday, November 25, 2016

The Great Turkey Roast

There was a letter to the editor yesterday in the local paper from some guy ranting about the treatment of turkeys and why we should not eat them.  He said he was having a tofurky and that is what we all should be eating.  Well, bully and la-di-dah for him.    Don't come to my house looking for special foods.

Anyway, years ago I made a buttermilk-brined turkey.  I had often soaked my chicken in buttermilk before roasting and I thought the turkey idea sounded great.  And it was.  The recipe was from Williams-Sonoma and that was how I first made it, using their store brine.  Over the years I have dry-brined and wet-brined with various recipes, but my family still likes this buttermilk brine the best.  So, this year I used the basic recipe with my own tweaks and we enjoyed a great turkey dinner, if rather exhausting for the cook, lol.  I added the cheesecloth vest for the breast and it turned out really well.  Here is a pic of the bird and the recipe (not great, but there was so much steam and I had to shoot the pic before the carver got his hands on the bird) .

Turkey Brine (ingredients stolen from Martha Stewart.  No, do not steal the ingredients, just steal the recipe.  If you are not like me and do not have a pantry full of these seeds, just buy the brine mix at Williams-Sonoma and use 1 1/2 cups of it.  Or just used coarse salt and forget the seasonings.)

1 1/2 cups coarse salt
6 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
Dissolve above in 2 quarts cold water, heat to a simmer and then cool.  When cool, mix with one gallon buttermilk.
Turkey prep:  The brine is enough for up to a 15 pound turkey.  You pretty much want the turkey submerged in the brine.  You will also need a brining bad or an extra-large Ziploc bag to hold the brine and the turkey.  You also need room in the refrigerator, or, if you have a large cooler you can keep below 40 degrees for 24-36 hours, you can use that.  
Buy a fresh 12-15 pound turkey (I prefer fresh Amish which are readily available around here) or a frozen turkey - not Kosher or already treated - and have it rinsed and ready to brine.  You can use the neck and giblets for gravy making or you can toss them out.  Just remember to remove them from the bird.  My Dad's sister never lived down her first turkey attempt when she left everything in the bird.  We heard about it every year.

Now, I highly suggest a helper to get this together, but since I do not have one, I am fortunate that I can lift a 15 pound bird and 12 pounds of liquid at the same time.  You need to put the bird in the brining bag, pour in the buttermilk brine, squeeze the air out of the bag, and seal it up tight.  Place it in a large container in the fridge (I set mine in the bottom meat drawer) or in your cooler.  Leave it for 24-36 hours.

At the end of your brining time, remove the bird and throw out the brine.  Rinse the bird thoroughly and dry with paper towels - the turkey shower.  Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and let sit on the counter for one hour.  You want the turkey skin to dry out.  As for food safety, my bird only reached 44 degrees in temp before going in the oven.

Place your oven rack near the bottom of the oven.  If you have a pizza stone, I highly recommend that you put it on the rack.  It will transfer heat to the bottom of your pan very efficiently.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Add roughly chopped carrots, onion, celery, parsley to the open cavities of the bird.  Be sure the legs are trussed.  

Soak a piece of cheesecloth, four layers, roughly a 12" x 8" piece, in six tablespoons of melted butter.  Lay it over the breast meat.

Place the turkey in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.  Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue roasting for 3 - 3 1/2 hours until the turkey has a temperature of  170 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh.  My oven has a probe feature, but you can also purchase remote probes that work outside the oven.  Just be sure to insert the probe into the thickest part of the thigh away from bone before you put the bird in the oven.  If you have neither, start checking the temperature of the bird after 2 1/2 hours of total cooking.  DO NOT rely on the pop-up timer that came with the bird unless you enjoy dry turkey. Remember, every time you open that oven door, heat escapes, which is probably why some bloggers complain that it took forever for their turkey to cook. 

When your turkey is done, remove it from the oven, remove the cheesecloth, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.  

And this pic is for the guy who complained about eating turkey:
Some of them just get to roam free.

Any questions?


  1. Thanks Denise. I will be saving that recipe. JoJo Earle has problems with wild turkey in her area. To her they take the place of your deer LOL. Pity you can't have a nice haunch of venison for Christmas. Maybe you should go "British" on your guests. We don't do nearly the amount of sides you North Americans do.

    1. I've had venison and a restaurant down the road used to have venison at this time of year on the menu, up until they closed. Usually, the sides are the attraction, but this year I thought the turkey was the best thing on the menu. The wild turkeys and grouse are rarely seen now. Been replaced by deer I guess.

  2. The best turkey my husband and I ever ate was one we raised ourselves - a Bronze (heritage breed) tom- when we lived out in the countryside of Northwest Arkansas. Our local supermarket, Wegmans, sells brined turkey breast and it is wonderful. The addition of buttermilk should really be fantastic. I've pinned this for future reference. Alana

  3. My wife likes to cook whole turkey - the bigger the better. This year, though, we went to my brother's house, where he did the cooking. He did a respectable job, but not as good as Judy.

    1. Oh, but he made three pies. We all agreed that the turkey was the best thing on the table.

  4. Your turkey looks fabulous. I do feel a little guilty eating turkey, but I enjoyed our Thanksgiving bird totally.

  5. Oh my gosh this sounds wonderful I am 'stealing' this recipe to try the next time I roast a turkey!!

  6. Came here looking for a good roast recipe. Will definitely try this out. The truth is we tried a version of roasted chicken this week and in typical South Indian style went overboard with the masalas we used for marination resulting in an extremely spicy chicken. So was looking for a mild to moderate 'heat' alternative :)

    1. I have some family members who really like spicy. I like spicy, but not HOT spicy.

  7. I love this recipe and book marking it for when I need it. Thanks for sharing Denise!

  8. This recipe looks really good. I honestly don't think I'll ever make another turkey (not that I have any objections to eating it, just will let others do the cooking) but if I do, I will definitely consider this recipe!

    Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!


    1. I am already thinking that next year I am just making a turkey breast. Hardly anyone eats the dark meat and there is a lot of waste in a whole turkey.

  9. Looks delish, but finding room in my refridgerator would be hard. I've got a year to figure it out...thanks for the recipe.

  10. It looks delicious!

    I can't imagine eating tofurky. Fortunately, at least in this case, I can't have much soy, so that's something I don't think I'll ever have to try.


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