It’s hard to believe, but I just hosted my fourth annual Friendsgiving. Every year I seem to follow a bit of a pattern: create elaborate shopping lists and cooking plans, get a bit behind because life, stress out and cook/clean like a crazy person the weekend of Friendsgiving and then give myself built-in naptime the day of so that I don’t fall asleep when my guests are here.*
Finally, I’ve landed on my go-to turkey recipe, the one I’ll make year after year after year. It combines the herb butter of Year 1 with the dry brine of Year 2, but took a cue from an old Bon Appetit recipe and created an herbed salt mixture for the dry brine.
All the other lessons were the same:
1) Air the turkey out in the fridge so that the skin crisps up
2) Finely minced shallots are key to a good herb butter
3) Always place aromatics (lemon halves, garlic cloves, sprigs of fresh herbs) in the cavity
4) Trussing the legs of the turkey ensures even cooking (but no need to get fancy here, loop your kitchen twine a few times around the legs and then knot it)
5) Roast the turkey on a vegetable trivet for impossibly delicious gravy
6) Flip the turkey halfway through cooking to keep it juicy
7) Rest everything before carving
My turkeys seem to be getting larger year after year after year. 2017’s specimen was 14 pounds (a full three pounds larger than my friend’s one-month-old baby!!) and barely fit in my tiny kitchen’s oven. I don’t think I’d go any larger than this, as we had a considerable amount of trouble flipping it halfway through cooking, and my old uneven oven struggled a bit with cooking this guy through. Everything came out perfectly in the end, but lesson learned for next year: test the internal temperature of your turkey in more than one place, and don’t overreact when you start carving!
However, all 14 pounds disappeared by the end of the night. The meat was incredibly [M-word-that-will-not-be-named] and flavorful (even the breast meat!), the skin was crispy and golden, and everything looked exactly as Norman Rockwell imagined. No buckets full of wet turkey, no stressing out over basting, no complicated steps — this is the ideal Thanksgiving turkey, bronzed and juicy and perfect, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
Cheers! I hope your Thanksgiving is delicious!
*This is something I do alarmingly often. My bedtime is 10 p.m. and I generally pass out by midnight, regardless of whether my apartment is empty or not. Four times out of five, if I am having people over, I will fall asleep before they leave. It is weird. Surprisingly, friends keep coming back.
- 1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
- 1-1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 3 small bay leaves, coarsely torn
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
- 2 shallots, minced
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 12- to 14-pound turkey, thawed completely if frozen
- 1 lemon, halved
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- a few sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary and sage
- 6-8 medium carrots, trimmed
- 6-8 stalks celery, trimmed
- 4-5 shallots, peeled and halved
- Make the herbed dry brine: combine the salt, pepper, herbs, bay leaves and lemon peel in a small bowl. (You can make this up to a week in advance.)
- Dry-brine the turkey: place the turkey on a large cutting board and pat it completely dry. Remove the gizzards and neck from the inner cavity, then set aside. (Reserve them for your gravy!) Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil (or use your roasting pan, or a disposable foil roasting pan, which is what I use), then place the turkey on the baking sheet. Rub the herbed salt all over the turkey, and sprinkle some in the cavity. Gently loosen the skin on the breast using your fingertips, and sprinkle the salt directly on the breast meat. Place the turkey, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 24 and no more than 48 hours.
- Make the herb butter: in a medium bowl, combine the shallots, lemon zest, fresh herbs, pepper and butter. (You can make this up to three days in advance.)
- Six hours before you are ready to start roasting your turkey, remove it from the fridge. Let it come to room temperature (this will take an hour or two), then pat it dry. Transfer it to a cutting board. Preheat the oven to 325F.
- Rub the herbed butter all over the outside of the turkey, and loosen the skin to rub the butter directly on the breast and leg meat (this should be easier since you already loosened the skin when dry-brining). Place the lemon halves, garlic and herbs in the main cavity of the turkey, then use kitchen twine to tie the legs together.
- Make your vegetable trivet: arrange the carrots, celery and shallots in the bottom of your roasting pan so that they form a makeshift "roasting rack" (I just line them up in a row -- nothing fancy).
- Place the turkey breast-side down on your vegetable trivet. (That's the "wrong" side up -- you'll flip the turkey later.)
- Roast the turkey for 1 hour. Use tongs and a wooden spoon to carefully flip the turkey -- I stick a utensil in the front and back cavities and kind of nudge it over. (There is really no graceful way to do this, and a 14-pound turkey is as big as I would go for something like this.) Increase the heat to 400F, then roast the turkey for an additional 60-75 minutes.
- The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165F. The skin should be bronzed and crisp, and if you stick a fork into the thickest part of the thigh, the juices should run clear. (But please please use a thermometer to confirm your turkey is done. And test the temperature in a few different spots, especially if your oven is a bit finicky.)
- Remove the turkey from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Tent with a piece of foil and let rest for 30-45 minutes, so that the juices can redistribute. (Use this time to heat up any side dishes and make your gravy.) Carve and serve!