Cooking a turkey can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’ve never take on the task before.
We partnered with Chef Beth Newman of Mason & Dixie restaurant in Grapevine to get a few tips to make baking the bird a little less stressful. Watch the video below, or scroll down for the text version of the tips.
Chef Beth recommends to brine your turkey. Brining is a process of soaking a meat in a heavily salted solution, usually in the range of 5% to 8% salt-to-water by weight. By brining, you can decrease the amount of moisture lost during cooking by up to 30%.
However, be warned – you’ll need at least a good minimum 12 hours to brine, and really the recommended brining time is up to 24 hours. That doesn’t include the time you need to defrost your turkey if it’s frozen, on top of the cooking time as well. So it’s a plan ahead kind of process. However, it can help produce some of the juiciest turkeys you’ve cooked!
There’s also a dry-brining process where you simply rub the bird down with a salt mixture without soaking it in water. In other words, this isn’t the only way, nor the “right” way…but for those venturing out to cook their first turkey this is a great option!
STEP 1 – CREATE BRINE MIXTURE
Chef Beth’s mixture includes: Coarse salt, dried cranberries, dried orange peel, thyme, sage, rosemary, peppercorns, all spice, bay leaves and brown sugar. If you don’t want to hunt down all the ingredients be sure to ask your local grocery store if they have a pre-packaged brine mix; many are carrying kits now to make the process even easier. Here’s the breakdown:
- 1 1/2 cups sea salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon all spice
- 1/4 cup dried orange peel
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons peppercorns
- 5 bay leaves
STEP 2 – DISSOLVE IN BOILING WATER
You’ll want to add the dry ingredients to about one quart boiling water. Make sure the salt and brown sugar looks fully dissolved before removing from heat. It is important to let the mixture cool back to room temperature. To help speed the process up, it’s recommended to put it in the refrigerator for a few hours to get it really cool. This is because you don’t want to add warm liquid to the turkey and potentially allow for bacteria to grown in the warm environment.
STEP 3 – ADD TO COLD WATER AND SOAK
Add the cooled brine mixture to another roughly 7 quarts of iced water. Mix well again. Be sure your turkey has been washed, patted dry, and any innards have been removed before placing in the brine mixture. It is recommended to use a brining bag because you can easily dispose of it after the brining is complete. However, some people also use a 5-gallon bucket you can get from a hardware store. Be sure to place the turkey breast-down so that it gets the most contact with the brine solution. Let it soak for at least 12 hours, and up to 24 hours. Be sure the turkey stays cool either in the refrigerator or in an ice-chest filled with ice. Again, if the turkey comes to room temperature bacteria can grow and potentially cause food poisoning.
STEP 4 – WASH AND COOK
After the turkey has soaked in the brine, take it out and completely wash down the turkey, and pat it dry once again. Do not cook the turkey in the brine solution! If preferred, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on the breast for an extra crispy skin. However, use caution to not do more than a light sprinkle because the turkey has already absorbed some of the salt during the brining process. You can also add any extra items to the cavity at this stage, such as onions or carrots for extra flavor. Roast the turkey at minimum 325 degrees and up to 350 degrees for a minimum of 15 minutes per pound and up to 20 minutes per pound. To ensure your turkey is fully done, the internal temperature should be 165 degrees. For example, a 10-to-15 pound turkey should cook for a minimum of roughly 3 hours.