I have been making whole turkeys for over a decade. Thanksgiving turkeys are a given but sometimes I like to roast a turkey for fun. I always get the biggest turkey possible because I LOVE the leftovers. I mean I’m going to do all of the work, I might as well get more delicious meals out of it.
Over the years my turkeys have been a work in progress. Some years have been better than others and I have learned from my mistakes. My current preparations are a process but well worth the effort.
First, the turkey needs to be thawed properly. It’s really important because it won’t cook evenly if it’s not defrosted properly. There are two safe ways to do this.
- First is in the fridge. You need a day per 4 pounds
- Second way in in cold water. This is much more tedious but if I don’t have time to defrost the turkey in the fridge, this is the best way to do it. First of all, leave the turkey in the plastic wrapper. Place it breast side down in the sink and fill the sink with water so the turkey is covered. If the turkey floats you may need to weigh it down. Change the water every 30 minutes. To defrost it completely, you need to estimate 30 minutes per pound of turkey.
Most years I wind up defrosting both ways. I usually get my 20 lb turkey to defrost in the fridge for a few days. Then I finish it in the sink with a water bath.
While that is happening (most likely Wednesday morning), make a brine. I brine is a salty mixture with herbs and spices. It’s basically a marinade for your turkey that ensures it to be moist after cooking. This is where my method changed last year and I don’t regret it!
- 10 cups of water
- 3/4 cup of sea salt
- orange, sliced
- medium onion, sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme
- 2 cloves are garlic or 1 teaspoon of garlic
- 1 cup of apple cider (optional)
Simply boil all of this in a large pot. Then let it cool COMPLETELY to room temperature.
After your turkey is defrosted, clean out both the front and rear cavities of the bird, removing the neck and giblets.
Brine the turkey by one of these ways:
- in a large cleaned bucket
- in a large cleaned plastic storage container
- in a brining bag.
A brining bag is basically like a cooking bag. That’s what I use. I put the turkey in the bag, place it in the disposal turkey pan. Then pout the brining mixture over the turkey and seal the bag.
Remember that this needs to be done Wednesday evening. That’s where an extra fridge comes in handy. Where I live it’s actually pretty cold. So I actually lock my brining turkey in the car! You can also use an indoor porch or a garage. Check the temperature wherever you are putting your turkey. Refrigerators are cooler than 42 degrees. Just because it’s 40 outside doesn’t mean it’s that cold inside a car or garage.
Thursday morning, it’s time to prepare for roasting!
- First pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse everything off really well.
- Pat the turkey dry! This is so important for crispy skin!
- Once it’s dried, put the turkey back into the roasting pan (again, I use disposable). If you have a rack, use it!
- At this point I stuff my turkey with oranges, lemons, limes, and fresh herbs. I love how the turkey tastes when those flavors or roasted in the turkey!
- Drizzle the turkey with olive oil and rub it in really well.
- Generously sprinkle with a clean eating seasoned salt, herbs, etc.
- Insert an oven-safe thermometer in the lower thigh without touching the bone.
- Base your cook time on the weight of your turkey (see Butterball Turkey Chart Below)
- About half-way through cooking, loosely tent foil over the center of the breast and the drumsticks to prevent too much browning.
- The turkey is done when the thermometer reads 180 degrees
- Let the turkey sit for 30 minutes before carving.
Whew! That took a long time! Trust me, it’s completely worth your efforts! It’s totally clean eating and healthy.
Here are more fantastic clean eating recipes for your holiday table:
Also, here are some Tips for Getting Through the Holidays Without Gaining Weight.