In the days before plastic pop-up timers and FDA warnings about undercooked birds, women often roasted their turkeys in the oven for a good day before serving it at dinner. I fondly recall a time when my great-grandmother would often make slow-roasted turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas, filling the house with the delicious aroma for days. The turkey comes out delectable and juicy. You can even stuff the bird without fear of pesky salmonella ruining your holiday.
What You Will Need
- Turkey (14lbs or larger)
- Brine Bag
- Large Bag of Ice
- Large Roasting Pan w/ Rack
- Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
- Meat Thermometer
- Stuffing (optional)
Brining your bird is the most important step before cooking and should be done for at least 24 hours. The easy part? It can contain any array of seasonings that you desire. Personally, I use Fire & Flavor Turkey Perfect Brining Kit from Bed Bath & Beyond. My favorite combination is Rosemary and Peppercorn, but I also like to use Apple and Sage.
First, ensure your turkey is completely thawed. Occasionally, I purchase a fresh turkey, which costs more. If you are starved for space in your refrigerator, then you can begin thawing your turkey several days in advance by placing it in a cooler, covered with ice. Depending on the size of your turkey, this could take several days. Add additional ice if needed.
Next, prepare your brine according to the instructions and cool at room temperature. While cooling, remove your turkey from the packaging along with the neck and giblets. You can save these for later if you have a recipe that calls for them. Otherwise, discard.
For the next step, rinse the turkey of any foreign material and place it in a large brine bag. If your kit came with one, even better. For this, place the turkey in the bag, nestled in a bed of ice inside a cooler. Add the brine to the bag and seal. Add additional ice to the cooler to keep the turkey at optimal, cool temperature, adding more ice if needed.
Hint: Although 24 hours is recommended, the general rule of thumb is one hour per pound, although a few extra hours won’t hurt anything.
Preparing to Roast
After the brine process is finished, remove the bird from the solution and rinse the bird, removing any excess debris, and position it on the rack of your roasting pan breast-side up. Preheat your oven to 400° F and prepare any stuffing you wish to use, according to package. Once finished, stuff the bird and cover loosely with foil.
Hint: If your bird came with that pesky little pop-up timer, remove it from the breast. You don’t need it.
The Easy Part
The easy part is roasting the turkey. The big question is for how long. We’re going to follow the 24-hour rule for cooking your bird. It’s fail-safe and will guarantee that your bird is done. Don’t worry, it is impossible to over-cook and dry out the meat with this method even if it reached the optimal internal temperature before then.
Now, you may have noticed that you preheated your oven to 400° F. This is critical. After placing your turkey in the oven, allow 20-30 minutes at this temperature before lowering your oven temperature to 180° F. And then…
Walk away. Read a book. Sleep. Whatever.
That’s it. Let the turkey roast in your oven until the internal temperature reaches 180° F. The general rule of thumb is to allow the bird 24-hours during this process although it may finish sooner factoring bird size and whether or not you added stuffing. And browning? Don’t worry. The skin will brown beautifully while cooking.
When finished, remove the turkey from the oven and clear the stuffing from the bird cavity. Make sure to allow the turkey to sit for one hour before carving.
Hint: I check the internal temperature of the turkey the morning after and every two hours after until it reaches the optimal temperature.