Cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey isn’t as hard as you might think. If you pay attention to what you’re doing and for how long, the oven takes care of the rest. But you have to nail the prep to get crispy, golden-brown skin and tender meat. Part of that prep is choosing the right turkey.
Try not to buy a mass-produced frozen turkey; most of them have been stuck in a deep freezer for months and don’t taste as good as fresh ones from a local farm, where you can often pick up turkeys a few days before you’re going to cook them. (Yes, they’re more expensive per pound.) However, if that’s not an option, refrigerator thawing times for frozen turkeys are:
8 to 12 pounds: 2 – 3 days
13 to 16 pounds: 3 – 4 days
17 to 20 pounds: 4 – 5 days
21 to 24 pounds: 5 – 6 days
1. BRINE IT
Soaking the turkey in brine prior to cooking hydrates the bird’s muscle tissue; the result is meat with more moisture. To properly brine a turkey, you’ll need a container large enough to house the bird. Some people will tell you to use a large plastic garbage bag. Don’t. It’s probably not made from food-grade plastic. Instead, use a roasting pan, stockpot, or bucket. A clean bucket. Here’s how:
• Dissolve two cups of kosher salt in two cups of hot water. Dump in a gallon of hot water and then add three-and-a-half quarts of cold water. Stir.
• Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey.
• Place the turkey in the brine for 12 hours for an 8-to-10-pound turkey, or 24 hours for larger birds.
• When it’s ready to cook, pour off the brine and rinse the turkey with water. Pat it dry with paper towels.