There’s nothing more frightening than cutting into the Thanksgiving turkey and finding dry, unappealing meat. The air of silence falls over the table as everyone saws through slices of the main course as if it were pressure treated lumber. It’s awkward for anyone eating and nothing short of heartbreaking for the cook.
There is an essential combination that fights off dryness and turns an average turkey into the star of a meal that will be remembered for countless holidays. Brining, boosting flavor with an herbed butter, and taking advantage of the miraculous properties of bacon are the keys to true Thanksgiving turkey glory.
Bacon-Covered Roasted Turkey
Choose a fresh turkey—and read the label to make sure it hasn’t been injected with a saline or flavor solution—to ensure a juicy and perfectly seasoned holiday centerpiece.
2 cups medium-flake kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
1 (12-lb.) whole fresh turkey
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1⁄2 tsp. table salt
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
6 bacon slices (not thick cut)
Garnishes: roasted carrots, fresh bay leaves
1. Combine first 4 ingredients and 2 qt. water in a saucepan, and cook over
medium heat 5 minutes or until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat.
Divide liquid between 2 large (10- to 12-cup) bowls; add 4 cups ice cubes to
each bowl and enough cold water to make 10 cups of brine in each bowl. Stir
until ice melts and both mixtures are completely cool (about 5 minutes).
2. Remove giblets and neck from turkey, and reserve for another use, if
desired. Place turkey in an 18-qt. food-grade plastic container or stockpot.
Pour brine into cavity and over turkey, covering turkey completely. Place in
refrigerator. Cover and chill 24 hours, turning turkey once halfway through.
3. Combine butter and next 4 ingredients in a small bowl.
4. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove turkey from brine, discarding brine. Rinse
turkey well, including cavity.
5. Starting at neck, carefully loosen and lift skin from breast and drumsticks
using your fingers. (Do not totally detach skin.) Rub 3⁄4 cup butter mixture
under skin; carefully replace skin. Tie ends of legs together with string; tuck
wing tips under. Place turkey, breast side up, on a lightly greased rack in a
roasting pan; rub remaining butter mixture over skin.
6. Roast turkey at 350° for 1 hour and 45 minutes, basting with pan juices
every 20 minutes during last 45 minutes of cooking. Remove from oven, and
lay bacon slices, crosswise, over breast and drumsticks.
7. Return turkey to oven; roast 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a meat thermometer
inserted in thickest portion of thigh registers 170°, basting every 15 minutes.
Let stand 30 minutes before carving. Garnish, if desired.
Makes: 8 servings
Hands-on Time: 50 min. Total Time: 4 hr., plus 1 day for brining
(c) Copyright 2012 Rebecca Lang Cooks, LLC
Recipe from Southern Living Around the Southern Table by Rebecca Lang, Oxmoor House, 2012
Photo by Jennifer Davick