The days of bland, dry turkey are officially over. Our talented chefs are serving you a healthy portion of bulletproof Turkey Day tips so that you can serve your family the perfect turkey this Thanksgiving.
Our Top Turkey Techniques
If you can’t find something big enough to submerge your entire turkey in, try using a deep pan, rotating your turkey every day until Thanksgiving to ensure that every part of the bird gets its time to soak in the salty flavor. Brining your turkey will also help you achieve a lovely moisture that is crucial to the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.
The Dry Brine
Instead of trying to figure out how to soak your turkey in a brine, simply cover it in salt (preferably something premium like Maldon Sea Salt) and leave it in your fridge until you are ready to cook it. Each day, take some time to massage the skin, ensuring that the salt imparts its excellent flavor to the bird. This helps you get the same type of absorption usually achieved via a wet brine, seasoning deep into the turkey.
Cover in a Cheesecloth
Soak a cheesecloth in melted butter and thyme for approximately an hour before you put your turkey in the oven, then lay this seasoned blanket over the bird for the first hour and a half of cooking. This technique allows the turkey to absorb flavor during the cooking process while also remaining juicy and tender. Don’t forget to remove it, though, or the skin of your turkey won’t cook properly.
Patience is the key to this technique. Although it takes quite a bit of time, the delicious flavor you’ll get is well worth the wait. If you don’t have a smoker, simply light up some wood chips (most types of wood will give the turkey signature flavor, so pick your favorite) under a perforated tray and make sure that the smoke is dense when the process begins.
Butter is Better
There are many ways to use butter to improve your Thanksgiving turkey. Try melting some and placing it underneath the skin of the turkey so that the meat can absorb the flavor. If you are okay checking in with your turkey while it cooks, add some butter to the exterior when it is almost finished. Much like adding a bit of salt to the turkey once it is on your plate, this last-minute seasoning adds a burst of rich flavor that won’t get lost in the cooking process.
Tis’ the Season(ing)
Play with new flavors on your turkey this year. Za’atar works as a great replacement to traditional Thanksgiving seasonings—this Middle Eastern spice blend includes thyme, making it a familiar but exciting choice. You can use it in your stuffing, turkey, even in soup! For a more classic profile, add flour, onions, and celery to the oven bag. This will impart nice flavor and it makes for a great start to a delicious gravy.
To get flavor and perfectly browned skin, coat your turkey with an herbed mayo before putting it in the oven. It won’t melt off, keeping the herbs in position to delight your palate with every bite.
Munchery Chef’s Specialty
Here are a few of our chefs’ favorite techniques to getting the perfect turkey. These are tips you can use regardless of how you like to prepare your turkey.
- Opt for an antibiotic-free bird. The best Thanksgiving meals begin with the best ingredients, and the turkey is no exception. Going antibiotic-free is better for the bird, and better for you.
- Start low and slow. Let your flavors develop over time while allowing the turkey to cook through without drying out.
- Constantly baste for the last hour. Like adding the butter to the skin, you’ll be sure to taste this extra step when the turkey hits the plate.
- Switch to the broiler setting for the final few minutes. This will give you a classic golden-brown skin—after all, Thanksgiving should be as beautiful as it is bountiful.
- Pull the bird out a little bit early and let it rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. The cooking process will continue outside the oven, and the resulting meat will be moist even after the bird is carved.
The Turkey Takeaway
Be proud this year about what you put in the middle of your Thanksgiving table. Experiment with new flavors and techniques so that your turkey can truly shine. And don’t worry about failure,—because the truth is, the perfect turkey is the one you share with your loved ones.