Monday, November 22, 2010

BBT: Turkey

Oh bitches, we are getting down to the meat of Thanksgiving, literally!  I don't know about you, but I am so thankful, because yesterday, we celebrated with our nearest and dearest friends, and the bird. was. PERFECT!  You'll hear all about Thanksgiving for Friends tomorrow, but today, let's focus on the that big fat beautiful bird! 

First things first, I had to wake my turkey up to help!

What, the, flip, Whitney. It is 8:30 on a Sunday.  Look at that HAIR! It's alive.
Now, Let's start from the beginning: What kind of bird to buy?  Whelp, it depends kids.  This is a fresh 20 pounder.  I don't believe in frozen birds unless it's truly necessary, because mine always seem to take too long to thaw.  I like that puppy thawed and ready for me.  Some people debate on buying prebrined birds, kosher birds, range free, yadda yadda.  My thought is that you should get the freshest farm bird you can within your financial limits.  (But I don't mess with ANYTHING that has the word PRE in it...)

I picked this old gal up on Friday night.  I named her Sharon. Because it's the giving season and Sharon is Carin' if you know what I'm sayin.  So, Sharon has been kept cool in the fridge, in a pan so that if any of her juices leak out, it's not going to poison the rest of our food.  Sharon was rinsed thoroughly inside and out.  Make sure to reach in BOTH ends of Sharon, and take out the innards bag and the neck.  Some people use those parts for gravy, I don't think it is necessary. 

So for the sake of easiness. Take out Sharon's junk, rinse her inside and out, and pat her dry.  Then, liberally salt and pepper the inside of Sharon. 

Then, I stuffed Sharon with some aromatics. 

2 lemons, 2 onions, 1 orange, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 sticks of celery and a bundle of Rosemary, Sage and Thyme.  Reserve a few sprigs of each herb to use for herb butter.

1 stick of butter, rosemary, sage, thyme and lemon zest to put under the skin of the bird.

To put the herb butter under the skin, slide your hand under the skin and above the flesh to create a pocket.

What, a breast.

Stuffin' Sharon
She's all stuffed!
Now, let's take a minute to talk about the tiny plastic thermometer that comes already stuck in Sharon.  Do not, for the love of Salmonella, trust a piece of plastic to tell you when your bird has reached 165 degrees.  Use a meat thermometer, or even better, a digital instant read thermometer.  Just pull that plastic thing out, and throw it away.

Like this beaut!
Alright so at this point, your bird should be ready to truss.  NOTE: I truss my bird before I put the herb butter under the skin or season the outside of the bird. I do this because you'll be turning Sharon over a few times, and I don't want to make an even bigger mess than I already am.  So, shall we truss Sharon?

First things first, cut yourself a really long piece of kitchen twine. At the top of the breast, locate where the neck used to be.  Then hook the twine like so in the photo, and pull the ends of the twine around the breast towards the back of the bird, above the wings and legs.
Like so!

Now, you'll want to tie yourself a really good knot to keep the breast in place.

After your knot is tied, take the ends of the twine and hook the turkey legs.  Cris cross the stings over one another and pull the strings (bringing the legs together) towards the front of the bird, like below.

Making sure that when you do so, you grab the wings of the bird in that little hook.  Then flip the bird over, and tie in a knot on the backside.

After you've tied the knot, pull the strings in the opposite direction of where I am holding them in the photo, towards the back of the bird, and flip the bird back over.

And from the back end, loop up the extra skin from the bottom of the bird, and tie it around the legs, completing the truss.
CONGRATS! You just trussed a bird!

Now remember how we made those pockets under the skin of the bird. Let's butter him.

Place the butter under the skin and above the flesh, spreading the butter as far to the front as you can.

Smooth out any butter lumps on the outside of the skin by pressing to distribute.

All buttered.  It's ok if she's lumpy, because the butter will melt in the oven, making a nice crisp skin.

Now, you are going to take ANOTHER stick of unsalted softened butter, and rub it all over the bird.
This is not the time to worry about the fact that you used 2 sticks of butter on a relatively lean meat.  It is Thanksgiving.  I am not a briner of birds, I am a baster.  And this 2 sticks of butter is going to keep the breast juicy and tender, as well as crisp the skin.  Just listen to me, and stop gasping already!

Season her up REAL GOOD with salt and pepper.
Now it's time to get down to business. I know you have all sorts of questions: What do you put in your roasting pan? How long and and what temperature do I cook my bird? How often do I baste my bird? Do I cover it or leave it uncovered while cooking? Well, boo. I got you.

Generally, I put whatever I have put in my bird, on the outside of my bird, therefore in my roasting pan I put 2 cloves of garlic, some onion, lemon, and celery. No herbs, they'll just burn on you.  I also put a little bit of chicken stock down there to give me something to start with. Sometimes, the bird doesn't release a lot of liquid til the end of roasting, and you want to be able to baste it.  

I cook my bird at 375 until my thermometer reads 165. 

Below is a formula of the amount of time you can expect a turkey to cook, depending on it's size.

Multiply the weight of your turkey in pounds by 15 to determine the total number of minutes to cook your turkey.

For example, if your turkey is 20 lbs, like Sharon was:

20 x 15 = 300 total cooking minutes, or 5 hours (300/60)  Now, my bird was done before this.  Typically, I start checking the temperature after 2 hours of cooking to see where we are.  Sharon actually only took 4 hours, and I think I know why.  BECAUSE I PUT HER IN THE OVEN AT ROOM TEMPERATURE.  That's right, she was setting out on the counter for 2 hours to come to room temperature before she entered the oven.  This does 2 things.  It keeps your oven temperature steady, and it starts the cooking process right away, instead of having to bring the bird from cool to hot in the oven.

How often to baste Sharon?  Once on the hour, every hour, until the last hour, when I baste every 15 minutes.  I firmly believe that the end of the cooking process is where the bird gets dry, but if you keep basting her, she'll keep her moisture.  I leave the bird uncovered until it has browned ALMOST to the color I want.  (For me, this took 2 hours.)  Then I cover with foil, and continue to baste until the last hour, when the foil is removed, and it's basted every 15 minutes.

When checking the temperature of your bird, make sure that you check the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone.  This will give you the most accurate read.  When your bird has reached 165 degrees internally, then take it out of the oven, and let it sit, uncovered, for 15 minutes before you cut it.  Trust me, I know it's hard, but the juices will run out and you'll have a dry bird if you don't wait. So do it.

And then, your Sharon should look like this:

I know.  It's breathtaking. Bitch, be Thankful. 



  1. Sharon is a beautiful looking bird. :) Very well done! I will bet that was really tasty. Great post!

  2. That is one good looking bird:))) yummy!

  3. That's a beautiful turkey! Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. I'm thankful that my parents and my pseudo-in laws (or whatever you call your boyfriend's fam) will be doing all the cooking this year...but one day, when I grow up and have to actually cook a turkey - I'm using this recipe. Looks F-ing AMAZING. yum.