Cooking your Thanksgiving Turkey

I decided to post a bonus blog today, since Thanksgiving is next week and I have barely even mentioned the star of the show: the turkey! Everyone has their opinions on the best way to cook a turkey, so here is mine 🙂 First of all, if you are buying a frozen turkey, get it today or tomorrow, so that it has time to defrost safely or buy a fresh one on Monday. I started brining my turkey a few years ago and it makes such a huge difference in flavor. Don’t be scared, its easy!

Step One: Buy Turkey

Can turkeys have gluten? Yes they can. Many times poultry is injected with broth before you buy it. Make sure the brand you are buying or have ordered is gluten free. Butterball and Shady Brook Farms both say on their website that they are gluten free. Most of the time when you order a fresh one from a farm, they have not been injected with anything, just ask.

If frozen, let it thaw for 2 -3 days in a refrigerator or keep on ice in a cooler where the temperature doesn’t go above about 40 degrees.

Step Two: Butcher the Turkey (optional – you can still follow the other steps if you keep the turkey whole)

butchering-turkey

I have been doing this for years, after listening to some professional chefs talk about making the turkey this way. I separate the dark meat from the light meat but keep all the bones in. There are many YouTube videos on how to do this. If you do not want to do this, buy a fresh turkey and ask if the butcher will do it. Whole Foods has done it for me in the past, when I’ve asked ahead of time. My Dad did the honors last year as I was so sick I could barely stand! (I cooked the rest of the meal the next day with a surgical mask on).

Save the giblets, the stuff inside the bag! Keep reading and you see how it helps make the most delicious gravy.

Step Three: Brine the Turkey

brine-for-turkey

Get a large bucket. I use a bright orange one from Home Depot that serves as my brining bucket. I have found that using a oven bag designed for turkeys in the bucket, makes clean up easier.

Basic Brine Recipe (inspired by this one from Our Best Bites)

Ingredients

2 cups of salt

2 cups of brown sugar

1 cup of peppercorns

3 Tablespoons of coriander seeds

12 small sage leaves, roughly torn

8 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 stems of fresh rosemary

4 Tablespoons of onion powder

2 Tablespoons of cumin

8 cloves of garlic, smashed

20 cups of water (may need more water to cover turkey)

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a large stock pot. I use a lobster pot. Cook on medium high until it boils. Take off the heat and let it cool.

Once the brine is cool, you can pour it over the turkey inside the bag in the bucket. Add more water or even ice to the brine if the 12 cups do not completely immerse your turkey. If your garage is cool enough or you have a refrigerator that can fit the bucket great. If not keep ice and ice packs around it and change every few hours so that the temperature stays under 40 degrees.

Brining for a couple of days or even one day will help enhance the flavor and juiciness of your turkey. I am also building in an extra day for the turkey to “dry” in my refrigerator outside the brine, as I heard that it will allow the skin to crisp up more. I’ll let you know if that works.

Step Four: Cooking the Turkey

turkey-in-oven-bag

If you did not butcher your turkey, put the whole turkey into an oven bag on top of a bed of onions, garlic, chopped carrots, celery and fresh herbs. I even throw in a couple of sliced lemons for the bed of the turkey. Remember to shake gluten free flour or cornstarch around inside the bag first!

Stuff some of the bed into the cavity of the turkey or if you did butcher it, you’ll have just the turkey breasts still on the bone. Rub butter or olive oil all over the turkey. I often make a compound butter (fancy name for mixing some of the herbs, salt, pepper and lemon zest in with some softened butter) and spread that all over. Close up the bag and cook accordingly with how many pounds of turkey you have. The breasts alone will cook faster. I roast it at 375 until the breast registers about 170 degrees. The dark meat (wings, etc should register about 180 degrees).

braising-turkey

If you braved the butchering, the dark meat is braised on the stove. A large heavy bottomed pot is what you will need. First brown the meat and then add onions, garlic, chopped carrots and celery with fresh sage, thyme and rosemary. Pour chicken or turkey stock about 1/2 up the meat. Add the giblets and make sure they are covered with stock. Braise for about 1.5 to 2 hours until the meat registers 180 degrees. Save the braising liquid to make the gravy!

Let the turkey rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carving!

cooked-turkey-breast

Step Five: The Gravy

Pour the braising liquid through a strainer and then pour it into a sauce pot on medium heat. Let it reduce a little and then taste it. Add 1 Tablespoon of corn starch and whisk.  Repeat adding 1/2 teaspoon at a time until it is the consistency you would like. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Just before serving, add a tablespoon of butter and whisk it in.

I serve gravy in insulated coffee mugs. That way it doesn’t get cold! Not fancy, but practical. I think everyone has come to expect the old Westlaw mug at the table 🙂

Ok. Breathe. That seems like a lot of work, but it is so worth it!  This is the star of the show. The actual cooking time is shorter when you cook the dark and light meat separate.

Please let me know if you have questions. There are buttons all over this page now that will put you in touch with me or make a comment and I’ll respond!

If you have missed any of my recent Thanksgiving posts, here are some easy gluten-free side dish ideas:

My Favorite! Acorn Squash

Holiday Mashed Potatoes

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