Last week, I walked into Cub Foods with a coupon for a Jennie-o Turkey for thirty-nine cents a pound. With visions of Thanksgiving dancing in my head, I was determined to find a big bird. Amazingly, there were several thirty pound turkeys in the freezer. Lifting with my knees, I hefted one into my cart. I then called my sister and asked her if she had ever roasted one that big. Her answer was negative. Like me, she had never even seen one that size before.
To the Internet!
My Google searches yielded dire warnings about cooking a bird that size. It would be dry as sawdust, it won't fit in the oven, you can't find a roaster big enough, don't even think about stuffing a bird that big, and on and on and on. I brined and stuffed my turkey last year, and planned on doing the same this year, but once again, the Internet advised against it.
People. The Internet is wrong!
I am here to tell you that brining a frozen turkey will yield a moist, delicious bird and a marvelous gravy...even if it's 30 pounds. You can cook stuffing inside the bird, and you won't bring a plague of salmonella on your family.
Even though this recipe is too late for Thanksgiving 2010, you can still go to Cub foods until Saturday and snag one of those Jennie-o Turkeys for 39¢ per pound. Make one for Christmas! My thirty pounder didn't even set me back twelve bucks, and the family will have glorious leftovers all weekend! Which also means I don't have to cook all weekend on the heels of an all night marathon last evening.
There are two secrets to a perfectly moist turkey.
The first is Lunds & Byerly's Turkey Brining Blend.
Last year, I called every Williams-Sonoma store in the Twin Cities in an attempt to secure their brine solution. Store staff told me they had been sold out for weeks. Lunds & Byerly's is an upscale grocery chain here in the Twin Cities, and they carry gourmet items not usually found in run of the mill grocery chains. I snagged the very last bottle of this stuff two days before Thanksgiving 2009. It was a revelation.
The other trick to my perfect turkey is Kitchen Basics Turkey Stock.
Here's the specifics.
Amy's Perfect 30 Pound Roast Turkey
- One turkey, thawed if frozen. Any size, but my philosphy is bigger is better.
- Lunds & Byerly's Turkey Brining Solution and brine bag
- 32 oz. Kitchen Basics Turkey Stock
- Fresh Thyme sprigs
Prepare the brining solution in a large stockpot according to package directions.
Rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out and place in the brining bag. The bag and turkey should be placed inside a roaster big enough to support them. Allow the turkey to brine for 16 hours if it is a frozen turkey that has been pre-injected with a sodium solution, or up to 24 hours for a fresh turkey. Do not brine for longer than 24 hours, and turn the turkey at least once during the brining period if it's not completely submerged in the solution.
Once complete, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it inside and out under cold water for several minutes. Some of the brine spices will be embedded in the skin, that's okay.
Place the turkey in a deep roaster. I prefer one with a lid, but use foil to create a tight tent if you don't have a lid. Allow the turkey to dry out for about a half hour after removing from the brine. This insures a crisp, brown skin during roasting.
Preheat oven to 325°. Pour the quart of turkey stock in the bottom of the roaster, then throw in several sprigs of fresh thyme. Insert a thermometer deep into the bird, being careful not to touch bone. Leave the bird alone for several hours. For my thirty pound bird, I kept it covered at 325° for five hours, until the internal temperature was about 150°. At that point, I took the roaster cover off, and basted the bird every 15 minutes for the next hour. The internal temperature registered just below 165°-the ideal temperature. I took the bird out of the oven and let it sit for another 45 minutes under a tight foil tent(the bird will continue to cook once removed from the oven), until it was time to make the gravy with the drippings. The skin was a lovely golden brown hue, and initial tastes of the meat had Steve loudly declaring this the best turkey ever.
When we pulled the bird out of the roaster, it came out it actually fell apart in neat sections because it was so moist. The pan juices were sublime. I didn't need to add anything else to the gravy to enhance the flavor. The breast meat wasn't dry at all. The giblet stuffing was lovely, I put it in a bowl and returned it to the oven to crisp the exterior up a bit. Everything was delicious.
I recommend you have someone to help you if you're cooking a bird larger than 23 pounds. Getting the bird in and out of the brining bag is awkward and messy, and a roaster with a 30 pound bird inside is also a challenge. Overall though, this is a foolproof method with glorious results. Don't wait until next Thanksgiving to try it!