Making an acceptable holiday turkey can be a daunting task for nearly anyone. It’s not like we cook this dish every week. Making a great holiday bird may seem almost impossible. But there are some tricks to the trade that can make your bird come out perfectly and flavorful. The white sage in this turkey recipe is what sets it apart from all others. You can buy white sage at most local health food stores.
1 12 – 16 lb. Turkey
½ Cup of crushed white sage
5 Tablespoons of fresh ground pepper
2 Tablespoons of coarse sea salt
2 Tablespoons of parsley
2 Tablespoons of rosemary
2 Tablespoons of ground thyme
4 Tablespoons of olive oil
4 Tablespoons of chopped garlic
Reynold’s Cooking Bags for 12 – 16 lbs of meat with tie
The first obstacle most people don’t really overcome properly is buying a frozen bird and not thawing it properly, causing it to be dry. If you can, buy a fresh, unfrozen bird, but that isn’t always possible. To thaw your turkey properly, please refer to the times and methods at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/Lets_Talk_Turkey/index.asp. Do not try to rush the thawing, the cold water method works well in a pinch, but make sure you place your turkey in a water proof bag or you will ruin your bird. Never use the microwave. It is better to delay your dinner hours and hours than to microwave your turkey, it will completely ruin it and make it dry and inedible every time.
Remove all but the very bottom rack of your oven and preheat the oven to 325. Remove all the giblets from the turkey by sticking your hand in the “butt end” of the bird. Be sure to also stick your hand down the “neck” of the turkey. Sometimes the neck bone of the turkey is placed in the neck opening. You should be able to see all the way through your turkey when everything is out. I rinse my turkey off in very cold water to make sure it there are no debris on it and then pat it dry, but that is a personal preference.
Combine all the ingredients, obviously except for the turkey, in a bowl. Rub the turkey down throughly with the mixture. Be sure to rub it up under the skin and in all the nooks and crannies of the turkey. Once the turkey is throughly rubbed down in the mixture, place it in the bag and apply the twist tie. Leave enough room in the bag for the bag to expand while cooking. Cut off any additional ends of the bag that stick out beyond the tie. This prevents it from interfering with the top of the oven while baking.
Place the bagged turkey in the roasting pan and place it in the oven. For a 12 pound bird you should start checking it after about 2 and a half hours with the meat thermometer. The internal temperature of the turkey should be 165 degrees. You can check cooking times for turkeys here, http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/Lets_Talk_Turkey/index.asp. Once you have started checking the temperature, check again within 30 minutes if you are within 20 degrees. Check the temperature more often as you near the target temperature. Getting the turkey out of the oven as soon as it is at the proper internal temperature is key to a juicy bird. I can not stress that point enough. You can cook an excellent turkey with no seasonings if you take it out of the oven just as it is cooked to perfection. You can season a bird wonderfully and ruin it by cooking it too long.
A few tips. Do not reply on one the little white “pop out” temperature indicator. I have ruined a turkey or two relying on them. They tend to not do their “popping out” until the turkey is actually a little over cooked. When testing the temperature, place the meat thermometer in at least 5 or 6 different places in the bird and be sure you are not pressing the tip against a bone. You want to make sure the turkey is completely cooked by testing in several places but you don’t want to press the thermometer against a bone, bones tend to be hotter than the meat, and can give a false reading. It is okay if some spots are more than 165 degrees, but you want all your test spots to be at least 165 degrees.
Note: This is why we love the best oil less turkey fryers. They take care of the temperature for you.
Once you have tested the turkey and it has come out to 165 degrees even in the thickest part of the breast, remove it and allow it to cool for at least 20 minuted before you open the bag and begin to maneuver the turkey onto a serving platter for your feast. Use Caution, the steam when you open the bag can be hot. The juices accumulated, as always, is good for making gravy.