How to Cook the Perfect Turkey

Here it is! The yearly posting of my Perfect Turkey Post! Enjoy, and see the results of last years HERE.

You see, most everyone who has tasted my holiday turkey agrees that it pretty much is the best thing going. So you'll have to take note now, as I will probably be mean and take it down before next Thanksgiving – because, frankly, I don't need the competition. You may find the following disturbing – but these are the waters. You have been warned.

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^ Why not start with a fresh Free Range bird? Often, I order a Willie Bird through Williams-Sonoma – but in a pinch you can find one at any decent market.

Meanwhile… I refuse to debate – so brine. I always buy the Williams-Sonoma Brine-of-the-Year – it's my own holiday tradition and always just lovely – for $16-$18.

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^ The bird in the brine after 12 hours; ^ and NOW: The Terrible Secret. That's right, get a tub of DUCK FAT. I heat the tub gently in warm water until it turns to liquid. (Locally you can find duck fat in the deli section at Central Market, in very limited supply).

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With a sturdy injector (again, Williams-Sonoma – I'm not shilling, I just love that place this time of year) start stickin'. At least three good doses in each side of the breast, and a couple in each thigh. It's awesome – the bird swells in a great way! It's just not right when you think about what you're doing – but go ahead. You will notice some fat seems to be collecting under the skin as the meat seeps – perfect. You'll end up with about half to 3/4 a tub IN the bird, then slather the rest on the outer skin. (I usually have two tubs, keeping one cool so the fat is solid for spreading on the skin.)

Be careful of the angle of injection, however – last year I had all my friends awaiting my much ballyhooed perfect turkey… we carved off of one side of the breast. Everyone pleasantly enjoyed the bird. Eventually, their eyes betrayed them. "Wait… what's the big deal here?!" Something was amiss. I knew as well. It was dry. We decided to address the bird. Carving into the other side of the breast – the meat literally gushed with flavorful juices – the intended result. It was obvious that I had injected the offending breast at an angle that not only allowed all the added fat to escape – but the natural juices as well. I forced everyone to eat a piece of the actual "perfect" product – but the moment was lost. Lesson learned. Inject from the top!

OK – back to the plan… from this point just follow Alton Brown's classic turkey roasting guidelines - I've tested others, his method is best:

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^ Stuffed with aromatics (Apple, Onion, Cinnamon Stick, Rosemary & Sage). Great for the turkey, but the added bonus here is that your house will smell even more amazing.

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^ Basically, you form a foil cap over the breast – REMOVING it before you stick it in the oven.

Now roast for 30 mins. at 500°. You'll then have this:

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…good. Now put the foil cap back on the breast and back into the oven it goes, (now at 350°)  - roast until the internal temp of the thickest part of the breast reads 158° via a remote thermometer.

NEVER open the oven door. Ever.

Once 158° temp is reached, pull the bird and let it rest 15-30 mins under a foil tent, the bird will continue to cook and bring the internal temp up to 165°. The problem with most turkeys is that they are left in the oven far to long (those little red pop-up things go off at 180° – guaranteeing a terribly dry turkey). Truth be told – I have pulled larger birds out at 150°, but I know what I'm doing… Use your best judgment – just don't overcook that sucker!

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^ And here we go (a 22 pounder; and a 14lb. bird) – it's unreal. The moistest-est turkey ever. No lie.

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Oh, I also like to make my own Jellied Cranberry Sauce – recipe on the bag, but I pass it through a chinois and get amazing results – even the haters agree! Have at it kids… and again – you were warned.

Click HERE for the results of the 2010 bird!