Your Guide to the Perfect Bird this Christmas
by Rehaam Romero
Tis the season! Of holly and mistletoe and snow… well, not really snow if you’re in Egypt. However, there is one tradition that seems to translate somewhat globally during the holiday season: turkey. And while the turkey is native to America, thanks to globalization even in its earliest forms, a turkey roast has become standard on many Christmas dinner tables. This month, we look at how to prep and cook this famous fowl and a few of its more popular accompaniments.
Bathe and Brine
Turkey is one of those things that splits opinions. People either love or hate it. But the biggest reason those who hate it do is because turkey is notoriously dry, especially the breast. There are many ways people combat this dryness: basting, injecting, going very low and slow in the oven… the list goes on. But by far the best way is to brine. Brining means placing a thawed turkey in a saline solution for several hours to disrupt the structure of the muscle. In English? It tenderizes it and injects flavor. For a 10kg turkey, dissolve 1.5 cups salt in 6.5 liters of water and let the turkey sit in the brine for 24 hours, refrigerated. But don’t stop there, why not add lemon, peppercorns, bay leaves, white wine and garlic to your brine? The options are endless.
To Stuff or Not to Stuff
Whether you call it stuffing or dressing, it’s essentially the same: a delicious concoction of starch, aromatics, vegetables and even fruit stuffed into the cavity of your turkey. It is also a breeding ground for illness, because while the meat can reach safe temperatures, the stuffing can still be loaded with harmful bacteria. So while delicious, it’s best to unstuff the stuffing and make it on the side. Check out our Restaurant Guide for some delicious side dish recipes.
The Big Day
So you’ve made your stuffing, your sides and you’ve brined your bird. Now what? While the breast is finished cooking at around 63C, the legs aren’t done until around 74C. The bad news? Breast starts to dry out at around 68C. The best way to combat this is actually to cut up the bird and cook each half separately. For every three kilograms your bird weighs, allow one hour of cooking. Preheat your oven to 260C. Once your turkey is out of the brine and dried, stuff the cavity with some aromatics (apples, onions, thyme, you name it) and brush the skin liberally with oil or butter. If you want, you can stuff butter under the skin as well. Place it in a roasting tray and let it roast for about 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the bird. Lower the heat to 175C and cook the rest of the way through until done. If your turkey is getting a little too brown on the top, cover with foil.
Not Your Mama’s Turkey
Getting tired of the same ole turkey every year? Give these alternative methods a shot.
1. Get your butcher to butterfly a turkey breast for you. Cook up a concoction of fatty sausage meat, onions, apples, cranberries, walnuts and your favorites spices. Once cooled, add some breadcrumbs and eggs as a binder and stuff into your turkey breast before tying up, searing and finishing in the oven.
2. Everyone knows the best parts of the turkey are the legs, so why not marinate some turkey drumsticks in your favorite marinade (we like a BBQ rub) and roast until golden perfection. Bonus? There’s no carving if everyone gets their own drumstick.
3. One of the best ways to get a perfectly even crisp skin on turkey is to spatchcock it. So if you have a small dinner party requiring only a small bird or an exceptionally large oven, why not roast your turkey this way this year?