To unlock the secrets of roasting a great bird, we culled advice from chefs and food experts:.
» The bird: A 12- to 14-pound turkey gives you the best chance of success. That’s because the white and dark meat need to be cooked to different temperatures, and the bigger the bird, the more difficult it is to nail that. If you need more than 14 pounds of turkey, roast two.
» The brine: Dry or wet, just brine that bird. The typical wet brine submerges the turkey in water containing salt, sugar and aromatics such as sage, rosemary, thyme and black peppercorns. Wet-brined birds must be patted down and air-dried several hours before roasting. Or, use a dry brine — a rub of salt, sugar and dried herbs — a day or two before cooking. Dry-brined birds have a crisper skin.
» The temperature: Ignore any pop-up thermometers in some turkeys. Instead, use a good instant-read thermometer and test the temperature early and often. Most believe breast meat should reach 160 degrees and dark meat, 180 degrees. But food scientist Harold McGee, author of “On Food and Cooking,” says to pull the bird when the breast hits 150 degrees and the thigh, 160 degrees. “Lower temperatures mean juicier meat,” he said.
This calls for cooking the turkey to below the 165 degrees that is considered safe. That’s because roasted meats continue to rise in temperature after they come out of the oven.
The basic recipe here starts the day before roasting, with an overnight salting of the bird.
Courtesy Alison Ladman, Associated Press
» 1/2 cup kosher salt
» 2 tablespoons sugar
» 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
» 12- to 14-pound turkey
» 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
» 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
» 3 sprigs fresh sage
» 6 sprigs fresh thyme
In small bowl, combine salt, sugar and black pepper. Remove neck and giblets from turkey cavity. Use paper towels to pat turkey dry, inside and out. Rub salt mixture all over turkey skin and inside the cavity. Place in roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse off turkey inside and out, then thoroughly dry with paper towels.
Rub butter under skin of the turkey.
Fit roasting rack into roasting pan and mist with cooking spray. Set turkey, breast side down, on rack. Stuff rosemary, sage and thyme into cavity. Roast 45 minutes.
Remove turkey from oven and lower temperature to 325 degrees.
Using 2 pairs of sturdy tongs (or one pair of tongs and a long-handled spoon inserted into the cavity), or washable potholders, flip turkey over so breast side is up. Return to oven and continue cooking.
Baste turkey with any drippings in pan every 20 to 30 minutes, until breast meat is 160 degrees and thigh is at 175 degrees, about 1-1/2 hours. Transfer turkey to carving board or serving platter and cover with layer of foil, then with several layers of clean kitchen towels. Allow turkey to rest 30 minutes before carving and serving. If desired, use drippings to make gravy.