How to Cook a Turkey in the Oven: If you are anything like me, you are already thinking about bird day. How will you season your oven roasted turkey? What Thanksgiving sides will you make? Does Thanksgiving dinner have to be the same old thing you make every year?
I say no. At least, not quite.
I’m not suggesting you cause chaos by serving lasagna on Thanksgiving.
But what about taking the standard Thanksgiving dishes and give them a saucy makeover?
Thanksgiving purists are happy because all their traditional dishes are represented; the adventuresome eaters are happy because they get to experience those dishes in a new way.
This year I’m planning to serve Asian Turkey, fragrant with exotic herbs and spices.
I prep the turkey the same way I always do. Yet my rub, and the herbs I put inside the bird, will infuse a soiree of vibrant Asian flavors into the skin and meat.
This Asian turkey rub is made with mayonnaise, sriracha, ginger and garlic. Believe it or not, the mayo adds an amazing amount of flavor to the skin and makes it extra crispy.
Then I place some Thai basil, lemongrass, ginger, and scallions in the cavity to perfume the bird from the inside out.
This method for oven roasted turkey brings additional flair to your Thanksgiving table without overshadowing the other dishes… traditional or not.
You can serve your Asian-inspired oven roasted turkey with classic Thanksgiving sides, or you can give them all an Asian twist: boy choy braised in white wine and butter, sweet potatoes with crystallized ginger, lemongrass garlic mashed potatoes, savory soy stuffing…
Before we get to the Asian turkey recipe, I want to share a few pointers for oven roasted turkey. Following these steps can make a HUGE difference in the quality of your bird.
How to Cook a Turkey in the Oven
Shop for your turkey at least a week before Thanksgiving. Place it in a roasting pan and let it thaw in the fridge several days. This will ensure you don’t end up with a frozen bird Thanksgiving morning.
Brining is a great way to infuse flavor into the meat. Prepare 1 gallon of water with 1 cup salt. Feel free to add any herbs and spices you desire. Then place the turkey in a clean bucket and pour the brine water over it. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Drain and dry.
If you run out of time to brine–don’t fret. Carefully loosen the skin of the turkey and rub all the meat (under the skin) with salt and herbs. Make sure to do this over the entire bird. Its not quite the same as brining but will still give your turkey much more flavor than simply salting the skin.
Whether you brine or not, your turkey’s skin needs to be bone dry before seasoning to make sure in gets crispy. Use clean paper towels to give your bird a rubdown.
Stuffing a turkey is for the birds…heh heh! Sorry I couldn’t resist.
Make your stuffing in a baking dish, instead of stuffing it in the cavity of the turkey. Then your turkey can come out of the oven when the meat is moist and just cooked through, instead of drying out while you wait for the stuffing to reach the right temperature.
Once your turkey is thawed, brined, and dried, rub the turkey down with oil, butter or mayo concoction to flavor the skin and make it crispy.
Start Upside Down.
Cooking your turkey upside down allows the fat and juices to run into the breasts meat for extra flavor and tenderness. I usually cook my turkey breast-down for the first hour. Then flip it over, re-oil the top and roast it the rest of the way, right-side up. The top will pop back up and brown, for a pretty Thanksgiving bird.
Use High Heat.
After years of playing with the temperature and cooking time, I find I get a juicier bird with crispy skin, if I roast it at a higher temperature for less time–400 degrees F, usually for about 2 hours. This also frees up the oven for other Thanksgiving dishes.
After all that, you and the bird need a little rest. I like to allow the turkey to sit for 30 minutes before I slice it. The juices redistribute and the slices tend to come out much neater.
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