Every year on Thanksgiving or occasionally Christmas, I love to roast a huge whole turkey. Why only once or twice a year? That's only because throughout the rest of the year turkeys are higher priced than those around the holidays. So, it's always a challenge to get the bird succulent and juicy (I hate dried turkey,) only because I don't roast them that often.
More often than not, the turkey comes out great - but I knew it could be better with a little thought. One year I had to work on Thanksgiving Day, so I left instructions for my husband to start it in the oven. My dilemma was - I didn't want to bother him with basting, so this year I used thick sliced Apple Slab bacon from my deli which had a lot of fat to the rind. This procedure enabled the turkey to self-baste for 2 hours (covered) until I returned home.
Then, I uncovered it, browned off the bacon (which I removed) for another dish. At this point I was able to baste the turkey every 30 minutes with the juice in the pan. This Succulent Turkey Roast Recipe is based on a 20-21 lb. turkey (I love lots of leftovers for making other recipes.) It came out golden and juicy all around - and it cooked in less time than the instructions on the wrapper.
Cooking and Preparing the Turkey
Here are some things to consider when purchasing and preparing your turkey.
1. When roasting anything, especially turkey or chicken, the weight you purchase it at will drop considerably when it is fully cooked, as much as 3 - 5 lbs. So, when deciding on the size of the bird you need, figure a 1/2 lb. per person. You may think that's a lot - it's not. Here we are factoring in the loss of volume during cooking and the weight of the bones.
2. When buying a frozen turkey, do that at least 5 7 days ahead of time. Place it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator in a roasting pan. After 2 days prod it with your finger and if it's starting to soften - you're on your way. As a precaution for pulling out a semi-frozen turkey from your refrigerator on the day you are cooking it - this is what I do.
Put the bird in the bath tub or a large container and cover it with cold water, weighting it down with anything you have (it will float.) I usually do this 2 days before cooking for 8 hours in the tub just to make sure it's defrosted and replenishing the water. It always works, especially for a turkey over 17 lbs. The day before I remove the turkey from the wrapper, remove the giblets and check inside for ice crystals. If you find any, run the cold faucet (tap) into the cavity for a little while and you're good to go.
3. Purchase a good meat thermometer (this will be your best friend.)
Now that you've wrestled with the turkey, it's time to get cooking!
20 lb. frozen turkey
2 14 oz. cans chicken broth
4 large carrots, cut into chunks
4 celery ribs, cut into chunks
2 small or 1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 peeled cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 - 1 lb. good bacon, thick cut
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. for at least 20 minutes.
1. Using at least a 3" deep roasting pan to fit this size bird, place the broth, carrots, celery and onions in the bottom. Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat dry. Rub all over with olive oil and place in the pan. If the wings are not tied back, just simply give the wing tips a twist and tuck them under.
2. Layer the bacon all over the turkey breasts overlapping them on top and make sure you are covering the whole breast area. Place the herbs inside the cavity. Place the turkey on top and make a foil tent, sealing it tightly around the edges of the pan. The broth will create steam and the fat from the bacon will baste the turkey - which is the little secret to a succulently moist turkey.
3. After 2 hours, uncover the turkey and remove the bacon. At this point you will have lots of pan juices. Baste the turkey, uncovered every 30 minutes (be careful of splashing into the oven.) Turn the turkey around in the oven after 45 minutes to ensure even browning. Check the temperature with your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. If it registers close to 170 degrees F. or above, remove the turkey from the oven - it is done! The turkey will continue to cook for at least 20 minutes, so pay attention to the doneness.
This 21 lb. turkey took three and a half hours to cook, as opposed to four and a half as directed on the packaging. It was perfect!
Let your beautiful bird rest at least 30 - 40 minutes before moving it to a platter. Enjoy!