Want to really wow your Christmas dinner guests, and leave them wondering just how you managed to roast the best turkey they've ever tasted?
There's one trick that promises to produce a turkey that is juicy, tender and tasty all the way through every time: brining. Here's how you do it:
Start the night before. The ratio for brine is 1 cup of salt for every gallon (16 cups) of water. You will need a deep pot or clean bucket big enough to hold the bird. The easiest way to figure out how much you will need is to put the turkey inside the vessel you will be using to brine it and then fill it with water. Remove the turkey and measure the amount of water it took to fill the pot. (Throw out this water and start with fresh.) Then in a separate pot, boil 4-5 cups of water – it’s easier to dissolve the salt in hot water. Add the ratio of salt you need and stir to dissolve. Transfer to the brining vessel and top up with the rest of the water to get the quantity you measured. Add the turkey and refrigerate overnight. (Alternatively, you could place the turkey in a supersized Zip-loc bag – you will need about a third quantity of the brine for that method.)
If you don’t have time or space for overnight, a few hours will still make a difference to the flavour, moistness and tenderness of your turkey. You can also flavour the brine with a handful of peppercorns, a few bay leaves, fresh herbs, juniper berries, handful of savoury – whatever you like! Add them directly to the boiling water for maximum flavour. When ready to roast the turkey, remove from the brine and pat dry, inside and out. Let sit on the counter to air-dry about an hour before roasting. Roast as usual (basting the top with butter is nice). You may find it cooks a little faster, so check frequently towards the end of cooking time.
Roasting temperature and time: 325°F for the duration, cover on for most of the roasting time and off to brown for the last 45-60 minutes. The best way to know when the turkey is done is to use a meat thermometer. Not all turkeys will cook in the same amount of time. Baste frequently while roasting and check after 2/3 of the estimated cooking time by jabbing the thermometer into the thickest part of the leg or thigh, avoiding bone. Remove from the oven at 180°F (the dressing inside should be 165), allow to rest, tented with foil, for 15-20 minutes – you will see the thermometer rise a few degrees.
Average roasting times:
6-8 lb bird: 3hrs to 3 hrs 15 mins
8-10: 3 hrs, 15 mins to 3 hrs 30 mins
10-12: 3 hrs, 30 mins to 3 hrs, 45 mins
12-16: 3 hrs 45 mins to 4 hours
16-22: 4 to 4 hrs 30 mins.