The Thanksgiving turkey – why is it the cause of stress for so many people? I know I am not the only person who has viewed that turkey as my enemy on Thanksgiving because Butterball turkey has a hotline that receives thousands of calls each year from people with various turkey questions. The hotline typically starts operation by mid-November and runs until Christmas. The hotline is even available on Thanksgiving Day.
I have been making turkey for Thanksgiving for over 20 years and last year I finally got some tips that gave me a moist flavorful turkey that everyone at my Thanksgiving dinner actually had second and third helpings!
Over the years it seemed like I had tried just about every method of trying to cook the turkey. When I was first married I tried the traditional pan roasting method. But I forgot to buy my turkey until the day before Thanksgiving. And I bought a big one because I wanted to be sure to have enough turkey for everyone. Because I waited too long to buy my turkey and because I bought such a big one it wasn’t thawed by the time I needed to cook it, but I tried cooking it anyway. I ended up with a dry turkey overcooked on the outside and barely done in the middle. Oh, and I had lots and lots of leftover turkey because nobody liked it.
The following year I was busy with a baby and again forgot to buy my turkey in time to get it thoroughly thawed so I was up most of the night before Thanksgiving running cold water over my turkey to get it thawed. The turkey ended up turning out okay but I was so tired and crabby by the time I served dinner that I didn’t care whether or not the turkey was done.
Then a few years ago I got the bright idea to deep fry my turkey. Several people recommended it to me. They said a deep-fried turkey was delicious. I thought, “Deep-fried food is delicious. My turkey problems are solved!” So I bought a turkey fryer and two big containers of peanut oil for frying that turkey. But I didn’t buy any marinade to inject into the turkey against advice from lots of people.
My husband was in charge of deep frying the turkey in the garage while I was finishing up the side dishes in the kitchen. The directions said it would only take 30 minutes to deep-fry the turkey. Because we wanted the turkey to be nice and hot for dinner, my husband didn’t start cooking it until about 40 minutes before dinner. That seemed about right to us. I don’t know exactly what happened but that darn turkey took a whole lot longer than 30 minutes to cook. Instead of having turkey as our main course, we had it as a very late dessert! We thought that was okay though because the turkey looked deliciously brown and crispy when it came out of the fryer. But because we hadn’t seasoned it at all, it was pretty blah and bland. We learned the hard way that when everyone we ask recommends injecting a turkey with a marinade for flavor before cooking it, that it is probably a good idea. That year my Thanksgiving turkey cost me well over $150 when I calculated in the cost of the fryer, the oil, and the turkey. For that amount of money I could have ordered our entire Thanksgiving dinner from a local restaurant.
The next year I was listening to a local radio station one morning in early November when the female morning show host started talking about how she made her Thanksgiving turkey. She said the recipe was a little involved but that it made a delicious turkey. I was ready to give it a try. I downloaded and printed the recipe, all three pages of it. Making that turkey was like taking care of a baby for nearly two days. It had to be seasoned and put in brine; patted dry; seasoned again; then put in another brine to soak. Then I finally got to cook it. I was so proud of that turkey. I thought it was going to be the best tasting turkey ever since it was the most work I ever put in making a turkey. But that didn’t happen. Nobody liked the flavor of the turkey so I again had lots of leftovers that nobody wanted to eat.
At that point I decided I wasn’t meant to cook a turkey. A turkey and I just didn’t get along. So for two years I didn’t make turkey. But for some reason my family thought it wasn’t Thanksgiving without turkey. I wasn’t sure why they missed it. It never tasted good. Then I realized what it was. The Thanksgiving turkey was a yearly joke at our house and when I didn’t make one there was nothing to complain about. The turkey jokes couldn’t be made.
So last year I tried yet again. But I talked to my son who was taking a culinary arts course at the time for tips. He assured me he could help me make a better turkey. And he did. Our turkey last year was great. And making it wasn’t complicated. It was so tasty and so easy to make that I make turkey every couple of months.
THANKSGIVING TURKEY SIMPLIFIED
One 5-6 pound turkey breast, thawed and patted dry
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
10-12 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 package from your grocer’s produce case)
1 cup water
Place turkey in a roaster. I use a Nesco roaster, but you can also bake it in the oven. Pour the water in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the turkey with the salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place the thyme springs on top of and around the turkey. Cover and bake according to the directions on the turkey package.
If baking the turkey in the oven, remove the cover during the last 30 minutes of cooking to brown and crisp the skin.
After taking the turkey out of the roaster or oven remove the thyme springs from the turkey and discard them. Let the turkey stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Dorrie Ruplinger is the publisher of http://www.thanksgivinginfozone.com which provides information and resources about Thanksgiving.