Our No-Fail Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe Has Arrived
In the Bon AppÃ©tit Test Kitchen, being assigned the Thanksgiving turkey is a big deal. Itâs a right of passage, a responsibility earned with seniority. This year, Andy Baraghani got the call. âItâs an honor,â Andy told me, âlike Iâm nominated for an Oscar. Itâs just an honor to be nominated. Well, in this case, I won the Oscar.â He started waving away tears (Andy watches a lot of Oscar speeches late at night.)
The Thanksgiving menu for 2018 focused on finding the best possible versions of classics; this wasnât a moment to get kooky, but to get technical. And the bird was no exception. The assignment: Develop a foolproof, always-turns-out-right turkey recipe. Every element was considered to the nth degree. Golden, crackly skin. Juicy interior. Actual turkey flavor. In the end, we got this recipe from Andy, which Iâll break down one crucial point at a time. Itâll be fun , thoughâ"a real turkey ride on the way to optimal turkeytown. This is how you get there.
First, we dry brine
Andyâs recipe calls for a salt and sugar dry rub, massaged all over the bird 12 hours (or up to two days) before the big day. This is the key to a juicy, actually delicious turkey (and chicken too!). Thatâs because the salt pulls out the water from inside the turkey, creating some salty turkey juices (SORRY thereâs no other way to say it) that, after some time hanging out in the fridge, soak back into the bird like the giant meat sponge that it is. The turkey loses a lot of water when it cooks in the oven, but the salt helps the muscles retain more moisture, meaning the turkey will stay moist-er by eating time. The salt also helps loosen up the stringy turkey muscles, making it possible for us to enjoy this thing. Beyond that, and if you like to throw around words like âosmosis,â I highly recommend reading the entirety of J. Kenji Lopez-Altâs T he Food Lab, or just this article on brining. Regardless of what is going on beneath the surface of the flesh, the salt and sugar are amplifying flavor, and the sugar helps with that Norman Rockwell golden amber color once it caramelizes in the oven.
Why dry is better than wet brine
Or maybe you enjoy filling a huge cooler or tub, Splash mermaid-bath-style, with salt water? Itâs a pain, itâs a mess, and that bucket of brine takes up way too much real estate in the refrigerator. Plus, it ends up waterlogging the turkey and diluting the flavor.
Then we glaze
Thing we all want: a turkey with a cover-worthy sheen and golden color. Get it with Andyâs simple sweet-punchy-herby glaze made of vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, garlic, orange zest, and butter. (Can also be accomplished by covering it with bu tter and leaving it on your roof, Kramer-style??). You paint the glaze on every 30 minutes, which might only be two or three times because...
What you need to know about timing
The recipe is timed so that you go hard at the beginning, 450Â° for 30 minutes, to get some color on the skin, and then go down to 300Â° for 65-85 minutes (this is for a 12â"14-lb turkey). This isnât your wake-up-at-the-crack-of-dawn all-day turkey marathon recipe.
What you need to know about pans
Ring a bell or something! I have an announcement. This recipe calls for a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack. Like this one. Without the high walls of a roasting pan, the turkey is able to get color ALL OVER, which we skin-stealers like. But yes, you can still totally do this in a regular roasting pan. (Especially if youâre the clumsy typeâ"itâs a big, heavy turkey on a wire rack.)