Bring on the libations, go for the dark meat or suffer through what seams to be intolerable dryness. Is your turkey moist enough to stand on its own with no gravy in sight? If not here are some tried and true tips for a successful Turkeyday.
Who knew that roasting a turkey could involve such complex science? Osmosis you say, a delicate and mellifluous exchange of liquid and meat. Imagine a through flavor injector without the fake syringe.
The Turkey Brine
Imagine a large room filled with water sitting directly next to an equally large but empty room, a wall separating the two. Now within that wall are small port holes, which open and close intermittently allowing the water to travel between the two rooms. This is essentially what will be taking place between your turkey and the brine that surrounds the outside of your turkey. However, remember that whatever you place on the outside will be reflected on the inside (meat) of your turkey, so mix your flavor concoctions carefully.
Here is a basic guide that I use:
6 quarts of tap water
1 1/2cups of Kosher salt
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups honey
4-5 cherry peppers
1 tsp dried sage
Large bunch of fresh thyme/rosemary
2 heads of garlic - smashed
1 medium piece of ginger - smashed
2 trays of ice cubes
14-18lbs turkey, washed, innards removed
2 lemons - squeezed and quartered
3 oranges - squeezed and quartered
2 bay leaves
Essentially you want a 1 to 2/2.5 ratio of salt to sweet. You can use any combination and variety of salt, be it expensive french sea salt or a mix of kosher/soy. Sweet, same thing, use whatever you have, sugar, honey and or both. Everything else is a flavor bonus. Your mixture should taste like salty sea water with a flavorful twist.
Start with a large stock pot quarter filled with water, bring to a warm simmer and add sugar and salt, dissolve then add your additional aromatics. Once you have added everything to the mixture, use the ice cubes to cool everything down. Place your turkey in the solution breast side down and refrigerate overnight or for 12hrs.
After your turkey has soaked overnight , wash it under cold running water to remove the excess salt. You will notice that the turkey has plumped up and may have changed color a bit. Make sure to pat your turkey bone dry this will help with the browning process that will ensue in the oven. I liberally had a coating of a compound herb better under the skin of the turkey and it's off to the oven.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree and cook until meat between the leg and the thigh reads 180degees on a meat thermometer or until the juices run clear.
Don't forget to baste your turkey every fifteen minutes after it starts to brown, either with the pan drippings or with a can of chicken/turkey broth. Your turkey will be succulent and moist. Don't overcook the bird. It should not take 6 hours to cook very many things. Make sure you check the temperature, invest in a good thermometer. After your hit your target, remove the bird and cover it with foil and allow it to rest, this will help all of the juices to even redistribute as the bird continues to cook residually. This is a good rule for all meats in general from steaks to a rack of lamb.