You don't have to get up at 6am to make a perfectly crisp, juicy roast turkey! With these super simple techniques, that bird is ready to hit the table in two hours or less. To make it even easier on yourself, all of the preparation can be done in advance, including the bed of lush, bready stuffing to rest your turkey on.
The trick to speed-roasting your turkey is to cut out the backbone. When you butterfly the turkey (do it yourself or ask your grocer to do it for you), you expose more of the meat to the heat, requiring less time, and providing a crisp skin without drying out the breast. To prevent filling your kitchen with smoke, the turkey is cooked over the dressing, which absorbs the drippings. Now all of your turkey cooking woes are solved!
The following recipe is best begun two days before you plan to cook your bird to allow for optimal brining and drying time.
Step 1: Butterfly the Bird
It's a simple technique to butterfly a bird, but when it comes to turkey, you're going to need some real elbow grease. I knew I wanted to DIY my first time around, but next time, I'll definitely ask my grocer very sweetly to do it for me. This works up a sweat!
All you want to do is remove the backbone and break the breast bone to the turkey lies flat. If you want to try it yourself, follow the steps on the How to Butterfly a Turkey for more info!
Step 2: To Brine or Not to Brine
If you do opt to brine your turkey, rest assured, it's super simple. From the most basic turkey brine recipe to super-fancy orange peel and juniper berry brines, it only takes a minute of preparation to get your bird a-brining. Here are some simple tips:
- Use a fresh (not frozen) bird. Frozen birds are often injected with saline solutions to make the meat juicier.
- If you don't have a large pot, use a giant Ziplock bag (or pricier brining bag) to do the trick.
- Prepare to brine your turkey two days before you cook it so it has time to absorb the brine, and then be dried out before roasting
Check out this Instructable for more on how to brine a turkey.
Step 3: The Dressing
While your turkey is busy rearranging its protein molecules to absorb more water in its briny bath, now is a great time to prepare the dressing that will provide a soft bed for your turkey's drippings.
Choose your favorite recipe (I used this one), but don't cook your dressing just yet. Place it in the bottom of a roasting pan that will also hold the turkey. Cover with foil and let rest in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook the bird.
Step 4: Drying the Turkey
Once your turkey has been well brined (8hrs to overnight), remove it from its bath and give it a good rinsing.
Thoroughly pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels.
Position the bird on a greased, slotted roasting pan if you have one. If you don't, get a rack and cover it with foil, cut some slits to allow the drippings through, and lightly grease with cooking spray.
Set in the fridge to dry overnight. To save on room in your fridge, place right on top of the foil covered dressing pan!
Step 5: Let's Get Cooking!
Lower the rack in your oven to the lower middle position (to accomodate the height of your bird), and preheat to 450F (230C).
Remove the turkey and dressing from the refrigerator.
Remove the foil from the top of the dressing, and place the turkey (on the rack) back atop the dressing.
Being careful not to tear the delicate membrane around the breast, use your hands release the skin on either side of the breastbone to form two pockets. Rub about 2 tablespoons butter under the released skin. Brush the outside of the turkey with 1-2 tablespoons melted butter, mixed with your favorite fresh herbs. I chose thyme and sage.
Place the turkey atop the dressing in the oven and roast until the turkey's skin is crisp and deep brown, 80 to 100 minutes, rotating pan from front to back after 40 minutes.
You want an instant-read thermometer to read 165F (74C) when inserted in the thickest part of the breast and 175F (80C) in the thickest part of the thigh.
Step 6: Rest
Transfer the rack with the turkey to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, place the roasting pan with the dressing back in the oven, and bake until golden brown, about 10 more minutes.
Let the dressing cool for 5 minutes, then spoon into bowl or onto turkey serving platter. Carve your turkey and serve!