Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Two weeks away.
Where has this year gone?
In deciding which recipes I needed to share before the big day arrives, I spent some time flipping through the pages of my blog and realized that I have spent a lot of time sharing my favorite sides like Paleo Green Bean Casserole and my Clementine Pecan Cranberry Sauce; and plenty of desserts like my Raw Vegan Pumpkin Pie in a Jar or my favorite, Chocolate Pecan “Toll House” Pie…but never have I shared my secrets for the main course!
What about the turkey?!
I have always made a decent turkey…if I do say so myself. But it wasn’t until focusing on a Paleo-centric lifestyle that I really believe I perfected the art of turkey.
Instead of a once or twice a year project, we now enjoy turkey throughout the year…and to do so, I had to get really really good at making this bird.
Now, everyone has their own technique to keep the turkey nice and juicy. Some people may brine their turkey, some people inject it and some people swear by basting the turkey every 20 minutes (exhausting and actually counter-productive).
For me, I have always favored using a seasoned butter or oil under the skin to help with the moisture.
I have used injectors with minimal success and basting always seemed a little wasteful to me.
It wasn’t until I was watching Good Eats with Alton Brown until I understood why brining was not only a good idea, but quite possibly the most important thing I could do to make a really really good turkey.
So, I started brining my bird. I’ve used all kinds of combinations with success but over the last year have found that a simple brine will do the trick every time.
Following this up with seasoned palm shortening both under and on the skin as well as a few more tricks I’ll show you below leads to a delicious, moist and perfect turkey every time.
How good is this?
Let’s put it this way…
Last night we had a thanksgiving style pot-luck and the extremely picky daughter of one of my dear friends decided she needed seconds. In her words “GIVE ME MORE TURKEY PLEASE! (She was yelling this, really) THIS IS SO GOOD! I MEAN, YOUR DAUGHTER SAID YOU MADE GOOD TURKEY BUT I HAD NO IDEA! I.NEED.MORE.TURKEEEEY!”
I hope this recipe makes life easier on you, takes a little of the worry out of your holiday and helps your family to be as excited about a chance for seconds as my friends daughter was.
- 1 – 12 to 15 lb Turkey (double all ingredients if turkey is larger than 15 lbs)
- 1 c black peppercorns
- 1 c sea salt
- 2 lemons, halved
- 1 whole onion, quartered
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 gallon of water
- 1c palm shortening (butter works if you can tolerate it, coconut oil is okay but not as good as palm shortening for this)
- 3 tbs rubbed sage
- 2 tbs granulated garlic
- 1 tbs onion powder
- 1 tbs salt
- 1 tbs pepper
- Also needed: 1 whole apple
- Defrost turkey and remove neck and gizzards (reserve these to make giblet gravy…I’ll share that recipe in a couple of days!). the safest way to do this is in the fridge, about five hours per pound to fully defrost.
- Approximately 30-35 hours before you plan to begin baking the turkey (about 40 hours before you plan on serving your bird), prepare your brine. In large pot (I use our 24 qt stew pot/hot water canning pot because it’s large enough to hold our turkey), mix together pepper corns, sea salt, lemons, onion, garlic and water. Bring mix to a boil and stir for 5-10 minutes then remove from heat. Allow brine to cool completely before placing the turkey in the pot. When ready, place the turkey in the brine, breast side down, and bring the water level up high enough that the turkey is floating just above the bottom of the pan. Cover with ice and store in a cool pantry or in your cool garage (keep it inside if you live in a warm climate!). About 12 hours after you begin the brining process, flip the bird to ensure even seasoning. Return lid and add ice as needed.
- When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 325f.
- Prepare seasoned shortening/butter by making a paste out of shortening, sage, garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Prepare roaster by lining the bottom with aluminum foil and topping this with parchment paper. I usually fold 2-3 sheets of aluminum together to ensure there is enough to wrap the bird. The parchment paper is optional, some people have concern with using aluminum foil directly on their food…choose what you are most comfortable with but know that wrapping the bird will help keep it moist.
- Remove turkey from brine, place the turkey in the prepared roasting pan and discard brine. Using your hands, gently stretch the skin of the turkey away from the breast by beginning with the neck area first, lifting the skin at the front of the bird and inserting your hand to gently separate the skin from the meat of the bird without tearing the skin. Repeat the process at the back of the bird and down the sides at the drumsticks and thighs.
- Once skin has been gently lifted, fill the newly created pockets between the skin and the meat with approximately ½ the seasoned shortening. Use the remaining shortening to cover the entire bird with a thinly seasoned layer.
- Place the apple, unsliced and unpoked into the cavity of the turkey. Consider this your little magic friend…I’m not quite sure how this works but it will guarantee that your turkey is over-the-top moist. Someone told me to try this about a year ago and boy oh boy did it work! Perrrrfect!
- Cover the turkey with one more sheet of parchment paper (optional) and bring in the aluminum foil to create a tight covering around the bird. You may have to add in one more sheet of aluminum to get everything to tie together easily.
- Place covered turkey in oven and bake for 20 minutes per pound. Remove the top layer of foil in the last 30-40 minutes of bake time to allow skin to brown and crisp.
- Remove turkey from oven when the thickest spot between the leg and the breast reads 165f. Let it rest about 30-50 minutes before carving. Reserve drippings to use in giblet gravy.
- To carve your turkey, use a very sharp knife and remove each breast in whole, slicing either on a cutting board or directly on the serving platter. Separate the legs and wings and either remove meat from the bone or serve as large sections.
- Don’t forget to save your bones to make some easy peasy healing bone broth, too!