Perhaps the most important food holiday ever created, Thanksgiving inspires more anguish, hand-wringing, and contradictory turkey advice than any other single meal of the year. I, frankly, am sick of reading the "brine your turkey, don't brine your turkey, baste every fifteen minutes, don't open the oven door until it's done" arguments. All these "experts" and their absolute certainty that their way is the only way to cook a turkey advice make me a little crazy! I have spent inordinate amounts of time reading all the different advice for Thanksgiving dinner. I have used several different methods for cooking the bird and have found some better than others. SO, I have developed my OWN annoying litany of turkey do's and don'ts. And why should you follow my advice as opposed to Alton Brown's or Martha Stewart's? Because I am the goddess of real world cooking, that's why. Plus I am always right about everything. The sooner you realize that, as I tell my husband, the happier we'll all be.
- Brine. It actually does make the turkey moister. Just make sure you keep it cold while you're brining. You can put the turkey in one of those really big ziploc bags and add a brine of 2 cups of kosher salt and 1 cup of brown sugar with some peppercorns thrown in and dissolved in 1 quart of boiling water. After it cools, add about one more quart of cold water. Then put the whole thing in a cooler and surround with ice. Or if you live in a cold climate like I do, put it in a big pot and leave it in the 35 degree garage.
- Give the bird a good massage. With butter that is. All over. Season with salt and pepper. If you're feeling adventurous, you could rub some of that butter, mixed with herbs of your choice under the skin of the breast.
- Stuff. I know, I know, you've read all the Cassandra warnings about not stuffing your turkey. Guess what? We've all been stuffing our turkeys for at least as long as I've been alive and I don't know anyone who's died from eating turkey. Just make sure you cook the damn thing long enough. To 165 degrees in the center of the stuffing. Nobody wants to eat the stuffing that's not cooked inside the turkey anyway.
- Baste. Every fifteen minutes. A lot. I start with a stick of butter until the turkey starts to render some of its fat.
- Put cheesecloth on the breast. You are pretty much trying to cook two different kinds of meat (white and dark) at the same time. Soak a piece of cheesecloth in butter and lay on the breast. Then baste both under and on top of the cheesecloth. Take the cheesecloth off for the last twenty to thirty minutes.
- Don't use one of those awful turkey bags. You are then not roasting, you are steaming.
- Don't cover with foil. Again, you are then not roasting. You are steaming.
- Don't even think of using Alton Brown's method of not opening the oven door. I did it once. Most dried out turkey I ever made.
- Don't deep fry. While it is delicious, this is Thanksgiving. Save that for your Super Bowl party or something. Have a little self-respect!