Well, the turkey part's not that hard -- but getting it juicy and tender is a whole different matter. Sawing through your share of white, dry sawdust meat just makes you thankful that gravy is also on the Thanksgiving menu.
The secret? Moisture. Lots of it.
*Baste or rub your turkey inside and out with olive oil or butter. I'll sprinkle on a generous handful of herbs afterward, including crumbled sage from our garden, marjoram and some basil.
*If you're not stuffing the bird, add an onion, apple or both inside. (Some people like bay leaves, too.)
*Add at least two cups of water in the bottom of the pan -- and cover your bird. The steam keeps the meat tender, adds more liquid for broth purposes, and won't interfere with browning.
I've also tried 'spatchcocking' the turkey -- cutting it down the breastbone so the bird lays flat. (Think 'butterflied.') This cooks it faster, so the meat doesn't dry out as quickly.
Trisha Yearwood suggested overnight cooking:
*Rub your bird inside and out with butter. Add moist fruit or veggies inside. Put it in a covered roasting pan, along with two cups of water. Turn the oven up to 500 degrees, and bake for an hour. Turn the oven off, and go to bed. DON'T PEEK. In the morning (5-7 hours later), your turkey will be done!
Trisha says it produces the juiciest bird she's ever made. We'll try this method, and find out.
Here's a good basic 'Two-Hour Turkey' recipe, courtesy of Safeway:
(see the full page here)
InstructionsPrep & Cook Time: About 2 hours
Makes: 8-10 servings
- Remove and discard truss that holds turkey legs together. Pull or trim off and discard any excess fat in neck or body cavity. Remove giblets and neck.
- Rinse turkey inside and out with warm water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Place the adjustable V-shaped rack in a 13 x 16 x 3-inch roasting pan (set rack sides so the bird is a minimum of 2 inches from pan bottom).
- Rub turkey skin generously all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set bird breast-side-up on rack. Pull wings away from body, then firmly twist them to push the wing tips under the bird.
- Using aluminum foil, form caps over the tips of the end of each drumstick. If any parts of the turkey extend beyond pan rim, fashion a foil collar underneath to make sure drippings flow back into pan. Do not tie legs together, add stuffing, or close body cavity.
- Insert an oven-safe meat thermometer near the center of the breast through thickest part until the tip touches bone, which is most accurate spot to check doneness.
- Verify oven temperature and set pan on the lowest rack in a 475° oven. Roast until thermometer reaches 160°. Halfway through roasting time, rotate pan in oven to assure even cooking and browning. If areas on turkey breast start to get browner than you like, lay a piece of foil over the dark areas.
- Remove pan from oven, set in a warm spot, and loosely cover pan with foil to keep it warm. Rearrange oven racks to accommodate potatoes and dressing. Decrease oven temperature to 400º. Let turkey rest 30 to 60 minutes. The resting period will allow the internal temperature to reach 165°, the USDA safe cooking temperature for poultry.
- Drain juices from body cavity (often plentiful in unstuffed birds) into roasting pan. Transfer turkey to a platter or rimmed cutting board. Set aside juices for gravy.
- Cut off turkey legs at thigh joint. If joint is red or pink, return legs to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes (at 300° to 475°) or heat in a microwave oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Carve the rest of the turkey. Carving juices may be clear to pink or rosy; both are fine. Save juices to pour into gravy if desired.