With Thanksgiving soon upon us, the debate about whether to brine or not-to-brine the turkey before roasting rages on. We’ve long been a fan of brining, having found it the foolproof method for insuring a moist, well-seasoned bird. Until recently, when two things made us question our belief.
Yesterday, on Serious Eats’ Food Lab we read a very long post documenting the wonderfully-obsessive J. Kenji López-Alt exploring and testing our brining works like a scientist. AND in Canal House Cooks Every Day, the swell prize in our current book giveaway, we read Christopher Hirscheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s use of the dry-brine technique — simply salting the bird 3 days ahead — pioneered by chef Judy Rogers in her great Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
We trust Christopher and Melissa’s sensibility SO much that we’re publishing the recipe below. You’ll find it and hundreds of other wonderfully simple, delish recipes in the big red Canal House Cooks Every Day, which we’ll be giving away to a lucky winner on December 5th. Click here to find out how to enter the giveaway.
recipe: Canal House Cooks Every Day Roast Turkey
We’ve cooked turkeys every which way: in a brown grocery bag (turns out to be highly unsanitary), draped with butter-drenched cheesecloth, deep fried, deboned and shaped into a melon (oh la la!). We’ve even wrestled with a hot twenty-fve pounder, breast side down, then breast side up, and on and on. But we think we’ve found the answer to achieving the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey — the easy dry salt brine.
Rinse a 14–16-pound fresh turkey (not injected or pre-brined) and pat dry with paper towels. Rub or pat 3 tablespoons kosher salt onto the breasts, legs, and thighs. Tightly wrap the turkey completely in plastic wrap or slip it into a very large resealable plastic bag, pressing out the air before sealing it. Set the turkey on a pan breast side up and refrigerate it for 3 days. Turn the turkey every day, massaging the salt into the skin through the plastic.
Unwrap the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels (don’t rinse the bird). Return the turkey to the pan breast side up and refrigerate it, uncovered, for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 325°.
If you’ve decided to serve your turkey stuffed, spoon the stuffing of your choice into the cavity of the bird. (Put any extra stuffing into a buttered baking dish, cover, and put it in the oven to bake with the turkey for the last hour.) Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Tuck the wings under the back. Rub the turkey all over with 3–4 tablespoons softened butter.
Place the turkey breast side up on a roasting rack set into a large roasting pan. Add 2 cups water to the pan. Roast the turkey until it is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165°, about 3 hours for an unstuffed bird and 3–4 hours for a stuffed one.
Transfer the turkey to a platter, loosely cover it with foil, and let it rest for 20–30 minutes before carving. Serve the turkey and stuffing, if using, with the pan drippings.
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