I had never made a turkey until this year! Being first generation Salvadorian I didn’t grow up eating turkey on Thanksgiving, instead we had amazing Panes con Pollo which is COMING SOON!
I did A LOT of research on how to prepare a Thanksgiving turkey and I was overwhelmed with all the possibilities of making a turkey and all the preparation and planning that goes into it.
I came across an article where someone tested top chef recipes and I finally found a winning recipe from the wonderful Ina Garten! She has an awesome video as well on how to prepare the turkey on the day of, so I definitely recommend watching it first. You can watch it here!
Preparation Time: 3 Days minimum, 4 -5 Days Ideal!
Tip #1: Picking the right turkey size is important! You should buy a turkey that will be enough for your party, about ~1lb-1.5lb per person. I picked a 10lb turkey for 5 adults and we still had lots of leftovers, granted we also had TONS of sides!
Tip #2: Make sure you DEFROST your turkey safely! DO NOT THAW ON COUNTER! This is an unsafe method and will cause the bacteria to multiply cause a food-borne illness that will make your guests sick! You can defrost the turkey in the fridge but this process can take up to 1 week to defrost so make sure you’re planning ahead. Another method is to fill up a bucket or sink with cold water, make sure the turkey is submerged and change the water every 30 minutes. I did this method and it took about 2 hours. Set a timer to 30 minutes to change the water. This is a safe method to defrost your turkey.
Tip #3: Get a brine bag! This helps to cover the turkey and make sure that the brine flavor is sealed.
Tip #4: What the Brine? A brine is basically a salt water bath for the turkey that helps to tenderize the turkey. You can choose between a wet brine that requires lots of fridge space, a brine bag and an ice bath or a dry brine which requires seasonings and a brine bag. I decided to go with a dry brine and got up close and personal with my turkey.
Tip #5: Since this was my first time making a turkey, I looked up brining bags and also found that many came with a premixed seasoning, after reading reviews, I decided to use: Fire & Flavor All Natural Turkey Perfect Herb Brine Kit, Perfect for Roasting, Grilling, Smoking, Frying and it was a great find.
Step #1: DEFROST YOUR TURKEY! Make sure to keep the turkey in it’s original packaging. Refer to Tip #2.
Step #2: After your turkey is defrosted, make sure you pat it dry with a paper towel, and take out the giblets and save to make gravy later (or not).
Step #3: Using your hands, very gently lift the turkey’s skin from the breast and legs.
Step #4: Take the Perfect Herb Brine Kit and rub generously under the skin of the turkey breast and legs.
Step #5: Generously rub the herb brine kit on the outside of the turkey and make sure to get it in between the wing, legs and inside the turkey cavity and under the turkey.
Step #6: Tie the turkey legs together and then set your turkey inside the brine bag, with the turkey breast facing down. Push out as much air as possible and seal the bag.
Step #7: Let the dry brine do its work for at least 24 hours.
Step #8: After at least 24 hours, take out your turkey from the fridge and remove the brine bag. Set the turkey in your roasting pan and set the uncovered turkey in fridge for another 24 hours. This helps get the crispy turkey skin.
Step #9: After another 24 hours, set oven to 350 degrees. Take out turkey and prepare the herb butter. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the lemon zest and juice of the lemon and 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves to the butter mixture, then set aside.
Step #10: Stuff the turkey cavity with the bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion, and the garlic.
Step #11: Generously brush the outside and inside of the turkey with the herb butter mixture and sprinkle outside of turkey with salt and pepper. Tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.
Step #12: Roast the turkey about 2 1/2 hours at 350 degrees, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh.
Step #13: Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil tent and let rest for ~20 minutes, then serve!