Help me cook my turkey

I have a turkey between 15-20 pounds. It was frozen last Thursday but we’ve been keeping it in the regular fridge since that night, so hopefully it will have completely thawed by this Thursday morning.

I cooked my first turkey a couple years ago. It turned out great, not dry at all. But since its a once-a-year-dish and I didn’t cook it last year, I kind of forgot how to cook it.

From what I remember, I took some butter and smeared it all over the turkey, then put some salt and pepper on it. This year, I’m going to melt the butter first and just pour it on so its much easier, then sprinkle it with a mixture of garlic salt, Lawry’s seasoning salt, and pepper. I’m not going to stuff anything in it.

Anything else Dopers like to put on it? Someone suggested pineapple slices on the turkey, but the day I let fruit touch my turkey is the day I die :stuck_out_tongue: I am, however, cooking it breast side down because a coworker said it will keep that side moist and cook it more evenly. What temperature should I cook it at and for how long? I don’t want to mess up my bird!

Brine it!

Lots of helpful posts in the following threads:

Seconded. I brined my turkey a few years ago and it was the juiciest turkey I’ve ever tasted. It made me rethink what I thought I knew about turkey.

I have no advice on temperature (I have not yet learned that wisdom from my aunt, who is in charge of turkeys) but since you’re cooking it breast-side down anyway, can I recommend a bit of non-stuffing stuffing? Turkey is helped immensely if you put some parsley, sage, rosemary, and/or thyme in the cavity and/or between the skin and the meat on the breast. A roughly chopped (no more than in tenths) onion, a few smashed garlic cloves, or quartered lemon in the cavity wouldn’t go amiss either, and aren’t tricky. Parsley is generally the cheapest at the store if you’re not growing your own fresh herbs.

(Yes, I am aware the herbs are also lyrics, but they’re in that song together for a reason.)


Here’s the recipe I used.

Indeed. I’ve been doing turkey that way ever since I saw Alton Brown’s show on brining. It’s pretty easy, and makes for a great turkey.
I always recommend throwing a chopped onion and some fresh rosemary inside the cavities. It adds a lot to the flavor, and the rosemary works well in the drippings for gravy.

Brining rules! I’ve used Alton Brown’s recipe, too. I’m leaving out half the sugar, all the allspice and ginger this time, because I found the turkey was too sweet. It’s good when you eat it plain the day of, but it had a strange flavor for leftovers. But brining makes it so moist!

For aromatics this year I have fresh rosemary, thyme and sage, and an apple, an orange, and a lemon, as well as an onion.

I also like to make a compound herb butter (chopped herbs mixed in with butter) and put butter under the skin as well as all over the bird.

I follow Alton Brown’s timing for cooking the bird.

Great advice here.

This year I’m going small and just cooking a chicken. Any alterations you guys would make? I’ve already decided to brine then go breast-down, new things for me.

Have you tried Thomas Keller’s version of roast chicken? Can’t go wrong with it. You can skip the trussing and just tie the legs together.

Here it is.

That looks pretty good! Does it stay moist?

I want to brine it, but I can’t. My mom is really sensitive to salt to the point where she will get upset if we put any salt in some dishes. Things I consider normal tasting is too salty for her. I don’t want to mess up and have an inedible turkey for her.

As for the stuffing, I’m really not a big fan of some of those spices, especially parsley. Last time, I think we had the neck and some organs, so that went inside the turkey. Since I’m asian, I prefer the guts anyway to some random potato stuffing. I think I will try the onion and the garlic though, thanks.

Brining doesn’t make the turkey salty, it makes it juicy. Seriously, it forces more moisture into the meat, not more salt.

More salt will end up in the meat. If it didn’t, brining would be ineffective.

Oh yeah. Cooking on high heat will keep just about any roast moist, so long as you don’t overcook it.

The salt does stay in the meat and make the turkey saltier (see pdf file). Not sure how much, but YogSosoth did say “she will get upset if we put any salt in some dishes.”

It’s such a tiny amount, though - it doesn’t at all taste salty to me, and I usually undersalt.

I think because I’m going to put the Lawry’s seasoning salt and the garlic salt on it already, I’ll err on the safe side and not brine it. Thanks though, maybe I’ll try it with a chicken in a month. It sounds like something I would really like.

My mom grew up with her mom putting a ton of salt on things, so she’s very salt averse. I can’t cook with her around because she would be frightened at the amount of salt I’d be using. No matter the dish or the size of the pot, if I ever put more than a couple of teaspoons of salt, she’ll scream. I have to salt things in secret with her around, wait for her to turn her back or something.

If your mother is really salt-averse, you should use garlic *powder *rather than garlic salt. The Lawry’s stuff has salt in it, too. Does she complain about the salty taste in those things?

Brining doesn’t make the meat salty at all.

Brining is overrated, IMO. But to get on with things: Let the turkey sit on the counter for a couple of hours to come to room temperature, but put a bag of ice on the breast to keep it cold. This will help keep it from overcooking. Buy one of those packages of mixed fresh poultry herbs at your supermarket. Throw them in a food processor with a cube of softened butter and rub the result on the skin of the turkey prior to putting it in the oven. If you’re not stuffing the bird, place some aromatics in the cavity as well.