Turkey_WhatsFresh_11-15.jpgIt’s not that hard, you just need a plan.

Things you have to have:
- Turkey – you want it almost room-temperature before cooking, read below for a solid tip on the pre-bake temperature. As far as selection for further reading try here, here or go with what you know.
- Pan – use one with a deep wire rack if possible or use lots of longwise cut up vegetables (carrots, celery, onion) as a base. You can also roast straight on an oven rack with layers of shaped foil below to catch grease if you have to.
- Meat thermometer. – a good one is well worth the investment. We are partial to electric remote ones that measure meat & oven temps, but others will enjoy this thrillist-style infrared gun model.

- Preheat oven for 1 hour at 400 degrees.
- Remember to rinse the bird (and clean sink afterward), take giblets out of the cavity (reserve for gravy), and remove any extra fat from the top and bottom of the turkey.
- If you do not brine (see below), liberally salt and pepper inside and outside with kosher or coarse grain sea salt.
- Lightly coat bird with olive oil or softened butter just before putting in the oven.
- We do not recommend stuffing in the bird; but you can put cut up carrots, celery, onion, and thyme loosely inside the turkey cavity and under any rack along with 1 cup water – add more water if necessary. Don’t let it burn as it will be the base for your gravy.
- Only baste when you open up the oven to rotate the bird.
- Plan on approximately 8-10 minutes per pound cooking time.
- When measuring doneness make sure the thermometer is in a deep part of the bird, but does not hit bone.
- Remember to let the turkey rest for approximately 30 minutes under a foil tent before carving.
- When carving, remove the each half breast from the bone and slice crosswise for easy, attractive slices.

Ways to get a juicy breast and a rich, succulent thigh:
Essentially the main issue at play here to achieve success is that a breast of turkey tastes best cooked to just over 160 degrees for optimal moistness and dark meat needs to be at just over 170 to get have a chance at perfect texture.

If you start to think like a baker you can find ways to cool down the breast in hopes of allowing the increasing temperature of dark quarters to pull ahead and give you the approximate 10 degree spread you need at the end of cooking.

Rotation – it does not matter if it is pizza that gets a rotation away from the hot spot or a fully rotational commercial baking oven, placement can affect what parts of an item cook fastest. Since you want a bird that is brown all around you would want to rotate anyway, but if you set the rotation times to shield the breast, you can save a few degrees for the white meat. Roast the first 40% of the time breast side down, then 15% of the time each side with the leg up, finishing with 30% with the breast up. The Cook’s Illustrated folks are big proponents of this technique.

Chill down – like a baker who to adds ice chips instead of water to a recipe to keep dough temperature down there are steps you can take to pick up yet a few more degrees. Use a very cold pan, a frozen rack or very well chilled vegetables in your base, and try to ice down the breast with cubes in a Ziploc bag for a while (don’t let it freeze) before putting the bird in the oven to start

Protection – parchment paper in a bakery ensures that the bottom layer of baked goods will not scorch or stick to the pan, why not go down the same road for your bird. When you rotate the turkey for its finish with its breast up you can either cover the breast with heavy-duty cold foil or some cheesecloth layered with frozen butter in the middle for 15 minutes. This protects the breast from direct heat and saves yet a few more degrees while allowing enough time for a golden breast. If you don’t have a perfect brown skin you can run the turkey under the broiler or crisp the skin side of the breast in a pan once it is removed from the bone.

Variations after the jump.

Easier - If you still want to cook but can not stomach the rigmarole described above, feel free to remove dark quarters (or have your butcher do it) from the rest of the bird and pull them from the oven after the breast is done at their natural idyllic temperatures.

More involved – look to do a brine, it will really make a difference in the final results. Add ½ cup kosher salt, 2 tablespoons white sugar and any aromatics you want (bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, chili peppers) to each quart of water it takes to submerge your turkey. Let it sit for 6-24 hours in the brine, make sure to rinse afterwards, pat dry before use, and remove all other salt from the recipe above. We prefer a shorter brine for poultry (5-7 hours) and if you want to walk the process out another day you can air dry the turkey on a rack in the refrigerator for 12-30 hours. This trick, borrowed from the procedure for making Peking Duck, results in an even crisper skin.

We are going to cover gravy, brussel sprouts and maybe some side dishes next week, but in the meantime go browse today’s Dining In/Out, this Florence Fabricant article on sides from last week, and the LA Times excellent T-day coverage.

Keep in mind that Fresh Direct can be a great resource for rounding out your efforts in this type of a cooking adventure. In addition to having a complete turkey with brining kit available, they offer all the traditional fixings and even some items like chicken stock and uncooked pie shells to save you some time.