Want to know how to cook mouth-watering turkey? Have you ever put hours into getting the bird just right — but ended up with it too dry and all but tasteless? Don’t you hate it when your guests eat (to be kind), but you know they’re just as disappointed as you with the main dish?
Follow the special tips here, and your next attempt at turkey will turn out the best ever! Give me just a few minutes of your reading time, and I’ll unveil the secret sauce for cooking turkey — straight from one of the most knowledgeable chefs and culinary experts I know.
Let’s get started!
Cooking Turkey: The Secret Sauce
I’m going to assume you’ve been around the block a few times before and that you are fairly turkey literate. You know the basics: Get the best bird you can afford (free range organic from a local farm is about as good as it gets), make sure it’s thawed and ready to cook — better yet, it’s fresh and already ready to cook, allow at least a pound of turkey weight for each person at the table (to serve 8 people, get at least a 12-lb turkey), and be sure to wash it off good before cooking.
But did you know that brining the turkey will make a HUGE difference in flavor, moistness, and appearance? I used to think brining is only for meat going in the smoker, but that was before I spoke with Chef Liya Swift. She pointed me to an article she wrote that covers 15 tips for cooking turkey!
Like you, I already know (and sometimes practice) most of Liya’s recommendations, but the brining thing totally threw me.
If you’re already brining before cooking, please take a look at the steps and let me know (via the comments) if you can add your own special tips.
If you’re not brining, then be sure to bookmark this article or print it out and save it in your cookbook. Here are the simple, easy, unbelievably tasty steps to take the next time you cook turkey.
How to Brine a Turkey
Chef Liya says the first thing to decide is whether you want to wet brine your turkey or dry brine it. Since wet brining is best for adding moisture, that’s the route I chose.
On the flipside, dry brining will help hold the natural moisture in — and both methods add flavor. Next time, I’ll try the dry brine in order to compare the methods.
You start with the one that sounds best to you.
Here are the basics of wet brining: Using about 1.25 cups of salt for each gallon of water (I used kosher salt and mountain spring water), cover your thawed turkey in the salt water and add your favorite seasonings to the mix. Soak the turkey in the solution for at least 24 hrs before cooking. Keep it refrigerated (or in a cooled ice chest) while the brine soaks in (to avoid the risk of salmonella).
And that’s it!
Cook as usual. Your brine-soaked turkey will impress every guest (just be sure to cook enough to go around). Expect to get plenty of call for seconds.
All steps are the same as for the wet brine, but that you don’t put the salt and seasoning in water — rather, you rub them directly into the meat. Again, do this at least 24 hrs prior to cooking and be sure to keep the turkey refrigerated up until it’s time to start cooking turkey in the oven (and smelling that wonderful aroma).
Cooking Turkey: The Secret Sauce is EASY!
That’s it, folks. The most difficult thing about turning out a turkey your guests will devour is finding room in the fridge to let it sit during the brining process.
I put mine in a big ice chest, filled it with ice around the brining pot, and stored it in the garage (we live in a four seasons climate, so it was cool out there anyway).
I couldn’t believe it… the best-tasting turkey EVER and all it took was the brining process to deliver the goods.
Here’s one more tip for the season — and this is great for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other festive meal: Don’t ruin your good table cloth and don’t use one of those cheap plastic picnic covers. Rather, have a family message or photo imprinted on your own special table throw. It’s really inexpensive and adds a special touch to the celebration.
Comments are open, so please share your own experience and ideas.
Let’s talk turkey!
Abel Cane loves to cook, and he loves to learn new techniques. Follow Abel @BoomAlive or leave a comment in this article. If it’s about food, Abel wants to know!