WATCH: The Art Of Carving A Turkey With Ted Habiger Of Room 39
Cooking the Turkey
Chef Ted Habiger suggests starting the process the night before.
Brining Your Turkey
It is a very simple process. You just have to get a big enough bucket, like one of those Home Depot buckets is fine, or a pickle bucket of some sort. Start the night before. You want to heat up a mixture of water, sugar and salt. Put some of your own spices in there. I like to put in garlic, juniper berry, fennel seed, bay leaf, pepper. You can just put them in whole form. Warm up the mixture, so the sugar and salt dissolves. Pour the liquid brine into the bucket and add plenty of cool water so it will be able to cover the turkey completely. Add a little bit of ice to cool it down, if needed. Once the temperature of the water is the same temperature as the turkey, or even a little colder, you place it in the bucket, fully immersed, and place the bucket in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, you can pull it out, put it on a roasting rack, dry it off as much as possible. If you have an extra day, you can let it dry in your refrigerator uncovered to let the skin dry out a little bit. What that does is let the skin get nice and crisp.
Once the bird is dry, take a little salt, pepper, and butter and rub a little bit over the top of the turkey. If the bird is a little wet, the butter will not stick to the outside of the skin, but if it is nice and dry, you can get a nice layer of butter on there. Very simply done.
I roasted this 13-pound turkey from McGonigle's Market at 325 degrees for about an hour and a half. That size bird will serve about ten people.
The key here is not over cooking. So while it is cooking, I just watch it carefully. Most turkeys come with a plastic thermometer, and I try to pull the turkey out just before the thing pops out. As I carve it, if there are pieces that need a little more time, I'll take a cast iron skillet, put a little liquid in the pan, place the meat cut side down, and put it back in the oven. The liquid will steam the rest of the meat and it will not overcook. No one wants to eat dry turkey.
Combine the following ingredients in a gallon of hot water so the sugar and salt dissolved. Allow brine to cool before adding your fresh or thawed 10-25 lb. turkey.
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 dried bay leaves
1 head garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
6 whole whole cloves
1 teaspoon juniper berries
3 star anise
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns