Well, the gang is (almost!) here and here you stand, at six in the morning, staring wide-eyed at a cold, raw, headless turkey – ready to roast, but somehow mocking you. It seems like a dare, doesn’t it?
What’s it gonna be this year, Karen? A timid swipe of butter, a sprinkle of salt and a prayer to the Turkey Gods? No way. Not this year. Just because your bird is bigger than your dog doesn’t mean you can’t win the day with these simple (and we might say, ahem…rather delicious!) ways to transform that clammy looking gobbler into a golden-hued, savory delight!
Most turkeys are already prepped before they’re packaged, meaning they’re stripped of their feathers (thankfully), cleaned, and the neck, heart, liver, gizzard, and giblets are packed into a small paper bag and inserted into the cavity for you. Boil these for the dog. Rover deserves it after a day of tolerating loud strangers parked on every sit-able space in the house.
But, no need to get all twerk-y with your turkey, here at F.N. Sharp, we’ll show you how to go from fowl to fabulous just in time for the in-laws to arrive! So, put on your fat pants, roll up your sleeves and let’s get cooking!
How to Season a Turkey
It’s not really ‘how’ but ‘what’ are my options? A turkey will turn out wonderfully if you season it simply or layer the seasoning in multiple steps. Turkeys are far more forgiving than you think. The key is in the skin. Not only can you season UNDER the skin (more on that later), but that skin is really a layer of flavorful fat that insulates the juices – so even if you do the bare minimum, you’ll be okay.
But, it’s Thanksgiving, right? So we’re just going to help you improve the taste a little bit! In this article, we’ll cover the basics for brining and basting, along with applying dry rubs and glazes. If you’re busy with incoming guests, excited kids, and overwhelming ‘to-do’ lists, you can totally season your turkey the night before. Just keep it covered and cold until you’re ready to pop it in the oven!
To Stuff or Not to Stuff?
Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, most turkeys really ARE roasted with some kind of filling inside. The filling not only seasons the bird from the inside out, but keeps it from drying out, which means you’re killing two birds with one stone (pun intended!). It really is a personal choice, however, so just be sure to ‘lightly’ stuff the bird and bake the rest of the stuffing/dressing in a casserole dish on the side. If you decide to stuff your turkey, be sure you are using ingredients that will cook at the same time
Bring on the Brine!
Brining a turkey helps it absorb extra moisture which keeps it nice and juicy. Just be sure it’s fully immersed and make you have enough refrigerated space for the time it takes to brine a whole turkey.
Brining your bird takes a little forethought and planning but the result is well worth it! Most brines are simply a combination of aromatic herbs and spices, some citrus peels, water and, obviously, salt. What’s great about brining is that you can create your own signature seasoning blends using whatever spices and liquids you have already! Ka-ching! Now you have more money for Black Friday! If you’re a new home chef (hello, newlyweds!), brining your turkey is a great way to ‘set it and forget it’ while you work on more important things (like ironing those tablecloths, Martha Stewart).
To brine a turkey, just dissolve the salt in the seasoned water in the microwave and pour it over your bird. Add additional water to fully cover the bird, then cover and let it ‘marinate’ as little as 12 hours and as much as 24 hours. You can brine the turkey while it’s thawing, too! During the brining process, be sure to keep the turkey on the lowest shelf so if for any reason the brining liquid drips or spills, it won’t contaminate the food below it.
Raw meat contamination is no joke. No one wants to spend Thanksgiving in the emergency room (or fighting over the bathroom). That’s not the memorable holiday you want, Karen. After the turkey is adequately brined and seasoned, roast per recipe instructions, with or without the stuffing in the cavity. It’s really that easy!
It’s All About That Baste!
Basting your bird is ‘de rigueur’ which means it’s a non-negotiable step. During the roasting process, you’ll need to use that turkey baster (the one you only use once a year) and squirt the cooked juices over the top and sides of the bird to keep the skin moist and infuse those flavors back into the meat!
A good baste is usually made from butter and seasonings until the fat starts to melt about an hour into the baking process. You can gently lift up the skin that covers the breast and rub some butter, olive oil, or…our favorite…bacon grease and even place a few sage leaves under the skin. As it roasts, the skin will become a translucent shade of gold and the sage leaves will make a beautiful design (take that, Rachel Ray)! Yes, you will be babysitting your bird: but it’ll be worth it!
Rub Me Tender
You’ll get your massage AFTER Thanksgiving, Karen. But for now, your turkey meat will benefit from a nice, soft breast, thigh, and leg rub (oh, stop it)! Dry rubs can be made from countless combinations of herbs and spices, with the most popular being sage, rosemary, various varieties of salt (use that fancy sea salt, why don’t you?), black pepper, garlic powder, and even brown sugar.
Rubs intensify the natural flavor of the meat with complementary flavors. Plus, it’s an inexpensive and foolproof way to create a signature flavor for nearly any cut of meat. Just be sure to coat the cavity as well! For more on what herbs and spices go with what, check out our meat seasoning guide.
Know the Parts of Your Bird: The F.N. Sharp Guide to Poultry Cuts
Glazing: The Final Frontier
A glaze is usually a lightly sweetened topping that you can baste or brush over the skin of your turkey in the last 30 minutes of roasting. A glaze coats and hardens the skin and makes it super flavorful. Most glazes compliment any brining, basting, seasonings, or rubs you’ve already utilized. With you and your turkey being awake several hours earlier than anyone else in the house, this final touch before the bird proudly rests in the center of the Thanksgiving table will create a deeply golden skin and an aroma that will make even the kids stop playing video games.
Finally, just remember the holidays don’t have to be a time of stress. Home chefs and even professional chefs can feel overwhelmed and pressured to create the perfect dining experience for their guests. We created F.N. Sharp to help relieve that stress by not only offering the finest tools to get the job done, but also the best tips, tricks and recipe ideas to help you create memorable feasts with the people you love.
Next up is cooking that bird and getting your F.N. Sharp chef knife, boning knife and paring knife ready for the best part – the carving!
Get All the Knives You Need: The F.N. Sharp 6-Knife Set