If you’ve never done it, cooking a turkey can seem like a pretty intimidating task. It doesn’t need to be, though, and I want you to be confident that even if this is your first time preparing a Thanksgiving turkey, you’re going to do a FABULOUS job! You can definitely do it!
My solution, most years, has always been a pretty simple one. I LOVE using oven roasting bags to prepare perfectly roasted and delicious turkey. It doesn’t require any special recipes or skills and leaves me with plenty of time to prepare all my other favorite holiday dishes. The one thing roasting in a bag DOESN’T do for me is give me that gloriously browned, picure perfect, crispy turkey skin and a beautiful presentation to display in the center of our table, before carving our turkey to eat. That works great for us, because with our crowd, serving is buffet-style and I have everything carved and easy to serve, before our meal starts.
But then, I got a chance to work with Shady Brook Farms and Honeysuckle White. They provided me a turkey to use for this post and I decided to go out on a limb and try something new. It was a gloriously, scrumptious success! The process was pretty simple and believe it or not still involved an oven bag … just not during the roasting process. It’s the first time I ever displayed our turkey on a decorated platter as the centerpiece of the meal. If that’s the style you favor, then I think you’ll like this recipe. I chose to DRY brine our bird and you’ll love how simple that is!
Honeysuckle White Turkeys are raised by 700 independent farmers across the country, not big corporate farms. Each of the turkey growers that supply Honeysuckle White are fully trained and certified in Shady Brooks Farms and Honeysuckle White’s Process Verified Program. That means when a turkey gets to you, it has no added preservatives, steroids or hormones. Antibiotics are only used when an animal is ill, NOT to promote growth. Unlike many others in the industry, Honeysuckle White has made a commitment not to use growth-inducing antibiotics, even though they are still permitted by law. As a matter of fact, whether it is animal living conditions, quality of feed, or processing for your table the goal of Honeysuckle White and their independent farmers is to exceed FDA standards and do what’s best for their flocks and for the consumer. That’s quality and commitment I can appreciate!
There are definitely a few basics to know before starting your turkey prep, though. One of the most important is that you need several days for this process! Get started, right now! Frozen birds often have to thaw up to six days, to be ready. I typically find that 2 to 3, is all I need, but every fridge is different, so you need to get that bird thawing right away! (Yes, you are definitely going to thaw it in the fridge!) And if you totally get tangled up in life and don’t have time to thaw a bird before Thursday, you’re still in luck. Honeysuckle White fresh turkeys can also be found in your favorite stores and markets. For more details about thawing, and some tips for speeding up the process, check out the Shady Brook Farms and Honeysuckle White hotline. If you’re not up for a person-to-person call, you can get online answers to all your turkey prep, cooking and storing questions. There are videos and tutorials for every step of the process. To contact them by phone, dial 800-810-6325. For online chat services, visit 700reasons.com. be sure to visit and round out your “turkey education”.
I created a dry brine by processing Kosher salt and dry herbs in my food processor, unitl they became a fine powder. I massaged the flavorful rub into the entire surface of the turkey skin and then sealed it up in an oven roasting bag, to absorb all those savory flavors over the next three days. When I was ready to roast it, I took the turkey out of the bag and stuffed the cavity with fresh veggies, then brushed the whole tureky with melted butter. For roasting, I started the bird breast-side-down and flipped over after the first hour. That allowed it to be evenly browned all over and the dark meat to be completely cooked. It was a wonderfully flavorful way to prepare our turkey and left the white meat moist and tender.
- 15 - 20 lb. turkey
- 3 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
- 1 Tablespoon dry parsely
- 2 teaspoons dry sage
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- ½ teaspoon dry rosemary
- ½ cup melted butter
- turkey-size oven roasting bag
- vegetables of choice to stuff turkey cavity (onions, carrots, celery, etc.)
- Remove the neck and giblets from your thawed turkey. I don't use them so always just discard them, but if you use them for gravy or stuffing, be sure to set them aside in the fridge.
- Use paper towels to carefully dry your turkey inside and out.
- Add the salt, parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary to your food processor or spice grinder, Process them until they are thoroughly combined and a fine powder.
- Rub a Tablespoon of the salt/herb dry brine mixture around the inside cavity of the turkey.
- Use the remaining salt and herb brine mixture and massage it into the skin of your turkey, being sure to coat the legs, wings, breast and back, as well.
- Place the turkey into the oven bag and remove as much air as possible from the bag, sealing it up.
- Set the bagged turkey into a large bowl and place the whole thing in the refrigerator. You're going to let the dry brine do it's magic for 2-3 days. Once or twice a day, rub the bag to continue working the salt and herbs into the skin. Turn the bag and be sure to massage the entire surface of the bird.
- After 2-3 days, remove the turkey from the bag and set it, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Set the roasting pan back in the fridge for 6 - 8 hours, so the skin becomes completely dry.
- When it's time to roast the turkey, remove the roasting pan from the fridge and let it set on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour, so it comes closer to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- While the bird is coming to room temperature, use your favorite vegetables and/or citrus fruit to fully stuff the body cavity of the turkey. I used a sliced onion, several carrots and a few stalks of celery. The vegetables will help keep your turkey moist, add flavor and make great drippings for turkey gravy.
- Next, brush the entire outside surface of the turkey with melted butter. If you have any butter left over, after the surface is coated, pour the remaining butter into the cavity with the vegetables. Again, be sure to start with your turkey breast-side-down, so the white meat doesn't dry out while you are getting the dark meat in the legs and thighs cooked through.
- Place the roasting pan into the oven, preheated to 425 degrees.
- Let it roast, uncovered for one hour, until the skin begins to crisp and become a beautiful caramelized brown color.
- After the first hour, take the turkey out of the oven and carefully turn it breast-side UP, now.
- Tent the turkey with foil and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Continue roasting the turkey until, using a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest areas, the dark meat is 175 degrees and white meat is 165 degrees. Your turkey should be a gorgeous golden brown with yummy crisp skin.
- When the turkey is completely cooked, remove it from the oven and loosely tent the roasting pan with foil. Allow the turkey to rest for at least 20 minutes, before carving. That helps the juices redistribute through the muscle tissue and creates moist delicious meat.
- Remove and discard the vegetables from the turkey cavity. They will not have reached a high enough temperature to be safe to eat on their own.
- Reserve the turkey drippings in the bottom of the roaster, for making gravy.
- Arrange the turkey on a decorated platter as a acenterpiece on the table or simply slice it and serve, whichever you prefer.
What are you most Thankful for this Thanksgiving?
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