Cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey

11/19/2013 12:00 AM

11/19/2013 3:22 PM

Honey brown, crisp skin with meat that’s tender and juicy – that’s a cook’s goal for the holiday bird. At Thanksgiving, myriad turkey techniques and methods are suggested. There’s the roasted turkey. Grilled or fried turkey. Turkey in a bag. Turkey with the back cut out and flattened.

But in the Free Press test kitchen, we are set in our ways. Our recommended method is brining (wet or dry) and roasting or grilling. Welike grilling (on a kettle-style grill) because it frees up oven space.

Brining recipes increasingly use different liquids and seasonings other than basic salt water or plain salt. Wet brines can include fruit juices, ciders, beer or wine and can be seasoned with aromatics, herbs and spices. Dry brines can include other seasonings along with the salt. Our turkey recipe on Page D2 uses orange juice in the brine.

But before you get started, a few reminders about food safety from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

•  Thaw the turkey if it’s frozen. Allow almost 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. (A 12- to 16-pound turkey will take three to four days to thaw in the refrigerator.) Never thaw a turkey at room temperature.
• Once the turkey is thawed, unwrap it, remove the neck and giblets from inside, rinse it and pat dry with paper towels. Save the neck and giblets for making gravy, if desired.
•  Invest in an instant-read meat thermometer. Do not rely on the plastic pop-up device that may come with the bird. The bird is safe when meat and stuffing (if stuffed) both reach 165 degrees.
•  If you choose to stuff your turkey, mix wet and dry ingredients just before filling the turkey cavities. Fill the cavities loosely. Cook the turkey immediately.
• If you have questions, try the famous Butterball hotline, now open. On Nov. 27 it starts at 5 a.m. PST and on Thanksgiving at 4 a.m., or (800) BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372).

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