How to Roast a Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

shutterstock_108578723I’m not sure about some of the methods I see recommended for cooking Thanksgiving turkey. I once followed a roasting method that suggested cooking the turkey at 500 degrees. This only resulted in a visit from the fire department for all the smoke in the kitchen! I didn’t make a fabulous turkey but we did make a memory out of it!

Whenever I have tried other methods I keep going back to this one. I have used this method more often than not for over 15 years with great success. It always results in a tender tasty Thanksgiving turkey. The bird may not be fancy enough to be featured on the cover of a food fashion magazine but when served it will always be the star of the show.

I stumbled across this method years ago among some notes in my Grandmother’s recipe box. The funny thing about many of the recipes in Grandma’s box is that they were written on scraps of paper, often on the same piece of paper she used to figure her checkbook balance! Or there might be recipes written on the backs of checks that were obviously given to her by her friends! So as you can imagine, there were few clues as to the origin of this recipe she had written down. But years ago I was able to trace out who I believed to be the original source for this method of preparing turkey. In anticipation of the holiday this year I did a little more research recently and was able to confirm the source.

This roasting method is credited to Adelle Davis. Adelle was a well known nutritionist and author of several books on health and nutrition throughout the 50’s. She completely created or reviewed all her recipes ensuring they were in alignment with the latest scientific findings of her time as well as being tasty. As with most people (self included) she had her share of critics and was recognized by some as a bit of a controversial character. But, I admire that trait in her!

Over the years I have bought a few of Adelle’s books. After deciding to share this method I contacted the Adelle Davis Foundation located in Carpinteria, CA. In visiting with Executive Director Eloise Dilling, we were able to confirm this to be a variation of Adelle’s original thought.

What makes this unique is that it is a slow and low method for roasting turkey.  As a working mom I found this method to be perfect as all of the prep could be done in the evenings after I had arrived home from work. The initial steps for brining and seasoning the turkey are pulled from various sources to arrive at my own crafting but the roasting method is solely credited to Adelle Davis.

I guess I want to mention too that this method is in sharp contrast to the method recommended by the USDA. So, I took the time to visit with them on the phone as well. Understand that I can’t claim any responsibility should your bird be a bust and with that in mind, I have included the method suggested for proper handling and safety as outlined by the USDA as well as this method from Adelle.  Just a couple important tips should you decide to use Adelle’s method…..many of the newer ovens have an automatic shut off. Most often they will shut off after 12 hours. It is very important to read the instruction manual for your oven and if it defaults to an auto shut off, be sure to disable that function. I had to do that for my oven and found it was very easy to disable the auto shut off. With older models this is typically not something you will need to worry about but be sure to check. It is also smart to test the temperature of your oven with a thermometer to ensure your oven is working properly. If your oven has trouble holding the correct temperature simply follow your instruction manual for how to adjust the temperature of your oven. And no matter the method used always use a meat thermometer to ensure the meat reaches 165 degrees as recommended by the USDA.

Brining the Turkey:
In large stainless steel pot, add…..
1 gallon water
1 cup table salt (or 2 cups Kosher salt)
1 Tablespoon peppercorns, rough cracked with rolling pin
Stir to dissolve salt then add…….
1 (15 pound) fully defrosted turkey
Add additional water if necessary so there is enough water for the turkey to be completely submerged in the brine mixture. Put lid on pot and place in refrigerator. This process is best started 12 to 24 hours before roasting.

Seasoning the Turkey
In medium sized saucepan, add…..
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon dried sage
Cook over low heat until butter is just melted then set aside to cool. Remove turkey from brine. Remove neck and giblets from inside turkey and discard or place under the rack in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Pour…..
1 (one) 14.5 ounce can low sodium chicken broth
into the bottom of the roasting pan.  Rub some of the butter mixture under the breast skin directly on the breast meat then rub the rest on the outside of the entire turkey. Soaking the turkey in the brine should add enough seasoning to the turkey, so, resist the temptation to season with more salt and pepper at this point or the drippings for your gravy may turn out too salty. Position oven rack to middle low.

Roasting the Turkey
Method Endorsed by USDA. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the turkey in the rack breast side up and place pan in the oven. Roast 4 hours basting regularly. Click here to see the complete instructions from the USDA.
The Adelle Davis Method. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place turkey in the roasting pan breast side DOWN. The rule is to roast 1 hour per pound.  Cook the first hour at 350 and then turn the oven down to 180 degrees and roast for remaining hours per pound. So for a 15 pound turkey, roast 1 hour at 350 degrees then turn the oven temperature down to 180 degrees and roast at this temperature for another 14 hours. Do not open the oven. This is a slow and low method for roasting turkey.  This works very well to just set the turkey in the oven before going to bed and then let it roast in the oven through the night. Be warned that it will likely wake you up because the aroma is so great at night! This presents best when you tear the turkey apart and place the meat on the serving platter rather than putting the bird on the platter.

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