I’m a Thanksgiving cook. I live to get a bird in the oven and dress it up and carve it and serve it to my loved ones. I think about my Thanksgiving menu weeks in advance and always buy a turkey either frozen or fresh when I could find a good deal. I sometimes make one in advance…. because I just can’t wait. Plus I like to make other things out of turkey, so I like to have plenty leftover.
The other day I was at Walmart and couldn’t believe how good of a deal I found…. I thought is this a deal or a steal? I grabbed a 12 pound turkey and brought it home to thaw. A few days later I removed the neck bone and packet of giblets from the cavity, made a simple brine, and let my turkey soak up the salty water. After a 24 hour bath for the bird, I decided it was time for a marinade. I put together a simple combo of white wine and orange juice and let my turkey now sit in a tangy boozy orange marinade for a few hours. When I was ready to get started I pulled my bird from the liquid and pat it dry. Placed it in a roasting pan propped up by a sliced onion and some carrots. I shoved pieces of butter wrapped in fresh basil under the skin and then added teaspoons of minced garlic and chile pepper flakes. The turkey baked in a total of 3.5 hours and made for a spectacular dinner. I recommend never going over 12 pounds when baking a turkey. A smaller turkey stays more moist and if feeding a bigger amount of people, then bake two. Here are a few of my best tips.
How to brine a turkey:
- 2 – gallons cold water
- 1 – cup kosher salt
- 1/4 – cup sugar
- 1 – 12 pound turkey
- Remove turkey neck bone and giblets. Rinse the turkey.
- In a large pot add water, salt and sugar. Mix until salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
- Place the turkey in the brine and place in the fridge for 12 hours. Make sure entire turkey is covered in the brine.
- Remove from liquid and rinse. Pat dry with paper towels and get ready for marinade.
How to marinade turkey:
- 1.5 – liters pinot grigio or other white cooking wine
- 2.78 – quarts orange juice (with pulp)
- Place turkey in a large pot.
- Pour wine and orange juice over the top of the turkey.
- If a little bit of the turkey is still poking out of the top you can either soak some cheese cloth with the marinade and place it on top. Or you can rotate the position of the turkey half way through the marinade time.
- Cover and place in the fridge for as little as 2 hours and up to 8 hours. The longer you leave the turkey in the marinade the stronger the flavor. Do not exceed the 8 hour mark or the marinade will make the texture of the meat mushy.
- Remove from marinade and pat dry.
How to bake and dress a turkey:
- 1 – onion (chopped into 4 parts)
- 2 – carrots (peeled and tops removed)
- 2 – sticks of butter
- 1/2 – cup fresh basil
- 2 – tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 – teaspoon chile pepper flakes (the kind you put on pizza)
- bay leaves
- olive oil
- roasting pan
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.
- In a roasting pan place onion and carrots in to keep the turkey elevated.
- Pull the skin on the top of the turkey away from the meat by sliding your hand under the skin to create a pocket.
- Wrap fresh basil around butter cubes and shove under the skin.
- Then in a small bowl combine minced garlic and chile pepper. Mix to combine. Add under the skin and massage in with your hand.
- Add bay leaves into the center of the turkey along with any left over butter, garlic or onions.
- Then with a pastry brush add a little olive oil to the entire outside of the bird for a crisp appearance.
- Bake for 15 to 17 minutes uncovered per pound. I baked my 12 pound bird for 3.5 hours.
- Remove from oven and cover it/ tent it with aluminum foil and allow to sit for 30 minutes before carving.
- Remove foil and carve.