make: turkey

Above is a picture of a turkey we cooked for a Canadian Thanksgiving in London earlier in October 2012. We didn’t managed to put up our recipe earlier but now is a good time since American Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

There are many ways to cook a turkey. We don’t have  access to a BBQ or a fryer big enough to BBQ or fry a turkey respectively. Our best option is to roast it in the oven. We are going to show you how we do it.

Turkeys are usually at least 3 times bigger than a chicken. 2 years ago was the first time I made a turkey for my friends in London. The turkey was 8kg (or 18lbs) it barely fit in the oven. This year our turkey was 6.4kg (or 14lbs), it fed 12 people easily along with the sides and fixings.

We like to wet brine our turkey to keep the meat moist. The biggest risk to turkey is cooking it and then when you eat the breast meat it’s dry. Dry turkey meat is not the end of the world you can put gravy and cranberry sauce to recover it.

Wet brine (4-8 hrs)

  • Rosemary
  • Peppercorn
  • Bay leaves
  • One bottle of white wine
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 3 litres of water
  • Oranges
  • 1 cup of brown sugar

Check out the turkey for any feathers. You can try to tweeze out the feathers or just use a blow torch to burn off any remaining feathers.

For the brine just put everything together in a big enough container to hold the turkey. The salt/sugar/water ratio is key to making a good brine; 1 cup salt, 1 cup sugar and 4.5 litres of water. The idea is to let the salt penetrate the meat. In our brine we use 3.5 litres of water and the other litre comes from the wine. For the sugar component you can use sugar, brown sugar or even maple syrup. Brown sugar is our preference.

Salt:Sugar:Water ratio 1:1:4 (approx)

Roasting the Turkey

  • Turkey
  • Butter
  • Sage
  • One orange
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Black peppercorn

Dry the turkey. Pat down dry with paper towels.

Crush all of the spices together into a powder. Mix it into the butter and then rub it all over the bird. If you can slide some butter under the skin, then go for it. Some people like to inject melted butter into the skin. We don’t have an injector so we don’t do that.

Cooking the bird. Some people like to cover the turkey with tinfoil or bacon. This is a good way to protect the breast meat while roasting in the oven. Some people like to cut the turkey up first into legs and wings and roast everything together. We are not huge fans of this method because there is no turkey for a grand presentation.

We like to cook our turkey upside down first with the legs pointing towards the back of the oven. The back of the oven is usually hotter. To get a good idea of where your oven is hot or not is by toasting some bread beforehand in your oven. The legs of the turkey will take longer to cook so the earlier they are exposed to the heat it will be cooked better. Cook the bird (6.4kg) for 2.5 hours upside down and then flip the bird right side up to cook for 2 hrs. Be careful that you may tear the skin when you flip around it around.

Glazing the Turkey

  • Butter
  • Maple syrup
  • Paprika

Melt the butter and maple syrup into a sauce like consistency so that you can brush it on the turkey. Add paprika to the glaze to give it some slight heat to the glaze. Apply the glaze onto the turkey with 30mins left to cook. The glaze will make the skin of the turkey crispy and the taste will be amazing with a slight sweet and spicy flavour.

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Brining bags are hard to come by in London. Either order them online earlier or find a bucket big enough to hold the turkey. Remember to put the bird in the fridge.

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Some say you should roast the turkey on a rack, we don’t have one so we just roast ours on a medley of vegetables.

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After a few hours remember to turn the turkey around so that the breast meat can start to cook. At the last 30 minutes, brush on some of the maple syrup glaze and set the oven to grill so that the skin gets crispy and brown.

Hope you enjoyed our turkey recipe. To our American friends have a great Thanksgiving. For our friends around the world, enjoy some turkey, it’s a lean and doesn’t have to be dry.

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