Soul Foodie: You’ll Be ‘Thankful’ For These Roast Turkey Tips & Recipe

Soul Foodie Soundtrack: Mary Mary "Thankful"

Thanksgiving is that time of year when families and friends normally gather together to celebrate, show thanks for life's many blessings, and partake in a fine holiday feast. (In a perfect world, at least.) And no Thanksgiving meal would be complete without the traditional star of the story: The turkey. However, there is an art to cooking the perfect turkey that isn't as hard to master as people may think. There's no need to be intimidated by the large-and-in-charge bird especially not with gospel duo Mary Mary giving you the inspiration that you need to show that bird who's boss. Erica and Tina Campbell's song "Thankful" from their award-winning debut album of the same name is just the soundtrack you need playing to make a joyful noise in the kitchen while making Thankful Roast Turkey this holiday season. Take a look at my tips on picking, brining, and roasting the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving after the bounce. You'll be "Thankful" that you did.

How To Buy A Turkey

The youngest turkeys have the most tender meat. Most commercially-produced turkeys are young turkeys, so the meat is usually always tender if the turkey is rated Grade A and is cooked properly. The designation of the turkey being male (tom) or female (hen) may or may not be found on the label because it has nothing to do with the tenderness or overall quality of the bird. The main difference is that a tom turkey ready for market is larger than a hen. If you decide to freeze a fresh turkey after purchasing it, the expiration dates are meaningless because the product is no longer perishable while it is frozen. The date stamped on the package can serve as an indication of the time period that the turkey was purchased so that it can be used within the recommended limits for freezing. It is always a good idea to allow for one pound of uncooked turkey per person when purchasing a whole turkey. This is a fairly accurate quantity per person, allowing for smaller appetites as well as extra helpings for larger appetites.

How To Brine A Turkey

Who wouldn't want to eat a tender, moist, and flavorful turkey for their Thanksgiving feast? If so, then brining a turkey is a great way to accomplish this. Brining is a salt marinade that causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings by breaking down the proteins. This is why brining is a popular method of preparing a Thanksgiving turkey because any moisture lost while roasting still produces a juicy and flavorful turkey. Most brining recipes call for a gallon of water or stock and a cup of salt and sugar each. From there, people often add apple juice, vinegar, whiskey, and other aromatics.

Thankful Roast Turkey

Brining Ingredients

12 cups water, divided
1 cup kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sage
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons rosemary
1 tablespoon pepper
4 cups ice

Brining Instructions

Bring 4 cups of water to a simmering boil. Add salt and sugar. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Turn off the heat. Stir in 8 cups cold water, apple cider vinegar, sage, thyme, rosemary, pepper, and ice. The brine is ready to be used.

Remove giblets and neck from the cavity. Rinse the outside and inside of a thawed turkey. Using paper towels, pat the turkey dry. Place the turkey in a large soup or stock pot bigger than the bird, cover the turkey in the brine mixture, and cover the pot with a lid. Allow the turkey to marinate for at least 12 hours or up to 2 days. Rinse turkey and pat dry before adding additional seasoning, butter, or oil in preparation for roasting.

*Please note: Do not to use a self-basting, pre-seasoned, or kosher turkey. Otherwise the turkey will be too salty.

Roasting Ingredients

1 brined turkey

1 stick salted butter
Salt and black pepper to taste

Roasting Instructions

Rub a stick of butter over the brined turkey before roasting. This will ensure a more moist turkey. Sprinkle with nominal additional salt and black pepper to taste.

Roast the turkey breast-side down for the first hour uncovered at a temperature ranging from 325°F to 350°F. Approximate time varies according to the weight of the bird. Estimate about 1 hour for every 5 pounds of weight. Higher temperatures may cause the meat to dry out. If turkey is browning too quickly, make a tent out of aluminum foil and place over the top of the bird. Turn turkey over after first hour to finish cooking. If you have chosen to use a roasting bag, open the bag for the final 15 to 20 minutes of roasting to allow the skin of the turkey to crisp.

Use a meat thermometer to determine the proper doneness, which is at least 170°F for the breast and 180°F for the thigh. After removing the turkey from the oven, the temperature of the meat will increase by about five degrees as the turkey rests.

If you cook a turkey that comes with a pop-up timer, the cooking process can be almost foolproof. However, if you stuff the turkey, you still need to use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the stuffing to make sure it has reached a minimum temperature of 165°F.

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