When the leaves change color in New England, I know Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. It is chance for me to see family and eat a delicious meal. My mother has mastered Thanksgiving dinner and I’ve only missed one Thanksgiving cooked by her since I was born. Not that I remember the first few.
If you are not as excited about turkey as I am, it’s probably because the turkey was dry and lacking in flavor. Here, I’ll suggest three strategies to prevent a dry and bland turkey.
Thanksgiving Turkey Tips
Brining a turkey is a classic technique to maintain moisture in the turkey. Seasoning the outside of the turkey with a spice rub and adding aromatics to the cavity guarantees a flavorful turkey.
For years I’ve heard Steven Raichlen say, “Where your food comes from is just as important as how you cook it.” So true. In the test kitchen I am spoiled by all the premium ingredients and products I get to cook. Today is no different. D’Artagnan sent me one of their Green Circle turkeys. It weighed 22 pounds.
The Green Circle turkeys are humanely raised, allowed to forage naturally, and are fed a special diet of vegetables. The birds are air-chilled to guarantee they have no additional water weight, which leads to better post-cooking yields, with a deeper flavor profile and crispier skin.
D’Artagnan has been providing professional chefs and home cooks with high quality ingredients since 1985. Like Steven, D’Artagnan believes that food raised right tastes better. They work with family farms and ranches that meet their high standards and guarantees that no antibiotics or hormones are used. D’Artagnan is committed to free-range, natural production and sustainable farming practices.
I started by removing the giblets and the neck and then made a brine. The brine consisted of kosher salt, bourbon, maple syrup, and allspice berries. The turkey brined for 12 hours and then I rinsed and dried it.
Next, I made a spice rub that would complement the natural flavor of the turkey. The spice rub included lemon zest, kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, chopped sage, and fresh thyme. I also added one quartered onion, one halved lemon, and five peeled garlic cloves to the cavity.
I set up my Big Green Egg (BGE) for indirect grilling and heated it to 350 degrees. I also added two apple wood chunks to create wood smoke. I inserted a remote digital thermometer so I could monitor the temperature of the turkey without repeatedly opening the grill and impacting the temperature. The turkey was placed in a roasting pan to catch the turkey drippings to add to my gravy.
After two hours of cooking, I basted the turkey with a combination of melted butter, lemon juice, white wine, and sage. The turkey continued to cook for an additional two and half hours. Once the internal temperature of the turkey reached 170 degrees, I removed it from the grill and let it rest for thirty minutes before carving. Don’t skip this step or your turkey will be dry and your cutting board will be juicy.
There are so many sides dishes that pair well with turkey that it was difficult for me to narrow down what to make. I decided to keep the sides traditional. But select your favorites when you make your turkey. My favorite side dish for turkey is stuffing and I only eat it once a year. In addition to the stuffing, I made mashed potatoes, butternut squash, and green beans. To tie the whole meal together I made homemade gravy from the turkey drippings.
The D’Artagnan Green Circle turkey came with the neck inside the cavity, so I used it to create a turkey stock for my gravy. I roasted it with celery, carrot, onion, and fresh herbs and then deglazed the pan with chicken stock. I let it simmer for an hour and then strained the liquid. It tasted like turkey soup. The turkey stock boosted the flavor of my gravy.
The outside of the turkey developed a golden-brown color due to basting and high heat of the BGE. The spice rub created a crispy and delicious turkey skin. The white meat was succulent and full of flavor due to the brining and the aromatics. The dark meat was even more tasty than the white meat. The natural flavor of the turkey came through and was not overpowered by the brine or the seasonings. The turkey was so juicy that the turkey gravy wasn’t needed, but it made the turkey and side dishes even better.
Of course, I invited my mother to enjoy the turkey I made. It might not be as good as her Thanksgiving spread, but it runs a close second. So, if you are cooking for Thanksgiving this year, try a Green Circle turkey from D’Artagnan… Your family will thank you. If you’re not cooking, be sure to help with the dishes!
Smoked Turkey Recipes for Thanksgiving:
Also Read: How to Smoke-Roast Turkey for Beginners.