On the FohBoh web site for The Restaurant Community I found a post by Kristen Siquerios dated November 20, 2008 and entitled Cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey! So I took a few minutes to add my 2 cents worth of tips for creating a memorable Thanksgiving main event meal. She mentions that it is her first time cooking the meal with her Mother-in-law having a birthday coming up and requested any ideas on ensuring a successful Thanksgiving dinner.
Here are a few tips, ideas and options that I came up with on the fly.
1. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed out prior to roasting, for a 20 lb. bird if it is still frozen you should have taken it out of the freezer by now (4 – 5 days before marinating or roasting) and put it in the refrigerator. Now, if it is still in a frozen state you can speed up the process by setting in a large container and then into your kitchen sink and run some cool tap water over it continuously.
2. Brine marinade works wonders for flavor, moistness and juicy tender meat. In fact a beer brine marinade is great for any poultry. Get a 6-pack of beer and open them up into a large mixing bowl, and then add about 1 1/2 cups of coarse sea salt, and 1 cup sugar and dissolve, then add 1 Tbsp black pepper corns, 1 Tbsp Juniper berries, 1 tsp nutmeg and a few bay leaves. Allow the thawed bird to marinate at least overnight before roasting. Then remove from the marinade and transfer to the roasting pan and season the outside and cavity with coarse sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
3. Another option is to inject the turkey meat with an herbal compound butter that has been melted. Take 1 lb butter and melt, and then combine with 1/2 Tbsp each of the following chopped fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage. Add 1 Tsp salt and 1 Tsp pepper. Allow the herbs to set a bit to mix well with the melted butter. Then using an injector syringe gently infuse the herbal butter between the skin and meat and between the meat and bones in as many locations around the breast and thighs as you can. Then you can allow this to marinate overnight or roast immediately. And as mentioned in #2, season the outside and the cavity before roasting.
4. Of course a deep fried turkey is among the most tender and moist you will ever find. A word of caution: be sure that your burner is outdoors and at least 20 feet away from any open structure or building such as your home, shed, car port or any covered area as well. I have not actually deep fried a turkey but I have seen them done on many occasions and have been fortunate enough to partake in the spoils once they were done!
5. Roast in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes per pound, or 5 hours for your 20 lb bird. But the real indicator for done-ness is to test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer with the breast meat at 165 degrees. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to rest at least 20 minutes before carving for the meat to retain the juices.