Thursday, November 22, 2012

Alton Brown: Butterflied, Dry Brined Roasted Turkey

For years and years, I thought that turkey was supposed to be dry.  Dry and yucky.  It was the only part of Thanksgiving that I disliked.  I would load up on casseroles and vegetables and mashed potatoes, and then I would hide my turkey under something as I ate.  I have a feeling I am not the only person with this kind of story.  I mean, if roasting a chicken eludes most people, a turkey is three times as bad.  And we tried literally everything to get the thing to brown.  Until we finally gave up and sprinkled it with paprika one year.

So I finally turned to Alton Brown, a.k.a. the Holder of All Cooking Knowledge.  Okay, so maybe he doesn't deserve all those capital letters, but the man has saved me on more than one occasion.  A couple of years ago I made his wet-brined turkey, and it was good.  But THIS turkey is fantastic.  I know it seems weird leaving the thing in your fridge for four days as it slowly changes color and starts to look...weird.  But trust me.  It's normal.  Everything will be fine.  And yes, I had the same panic attack when I watched my overpriced organic turkey start to look, well, rotten, that first year.  Once it's cooked, the skin is crispy and brown and the meat is tender and perfect.

Butterflied, Dry Brined Roasted Turkey
Adapted from Alton Brown

3½ tablespoon kosher salt
1½ teaspoon rubbed sage
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1¼ teaspoons whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon whole allspice berries
1 (13- to 14-pound) turkey, neck and giblets removed

Four days before serving, place the salt, sage, thyme, black peppercorns, and allspice into a spice grinder and pulse until the peppercorns and allspice are coarsely ground, 5 to 6 pulses.  Set aside.

Set the turkey, breast side down, on a large cutting board with the tail closest to you.  Use an electric knife or heavy-duty kitchen shears to cut up one side of the backbone.  Turn the bird around and cut back down the other side of the spine.  Discard backbone and any fat pockets or excess skin found inside the turkey.  Turn the turkey breast side up and use the heel of your hands to press down on both breasts until you hear a cracking sound and the bird has flattened slightly.

Rub the seasoned salt on both sides of the turkey.  Place the turkey on a parchment paper lined half sheet pan, breast side up with legs running with the long side of the pan.  Store, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 4 days.

Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for 1 hour.

Place one rack in the middle of the oven and a second one far enough below so that the half sheet pan will fit.  Heat the oven to 425°F.

Place the turkey directly on the middle rack of the oven with the legs perpendicular to the metal bars of the rack.  Place the half sheet pan on the rack below the turkey to catch any drips, and roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 350°F.  Continue to roast the turkey until a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155°F., an additional 40 to 50 minutes.  Remove the turkey and sheet pan from the oven onto a cooling rack and set inside the half sheet pan and rest for 30 minutes.  Carve the turkey with an electric knife.

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