Many food magazines and chefs suggest that “purists” don’t brine their turkeys. This is just plain silly. All turkeys should be brined. The simple reason is that it makes the white meat moister and avoids having a turkey that is too dry when you try to get the dark meat to cook through.
The dark meat (175º F) of a Turkey has to have a 15° F higher internal temperature than the white breast meat (160º F). Clearly, this is a major challenge when baking a turkey where the breast meat is exposed to the highest temperature.
This temperature balance is almost impossible to achieve cooking a turkey the conventional way in an oven. Frankly, I prefer to spatchcock the turkey (see above) as recommended in Bon Appetit. It requires a little more effort, but is certainly worth the effort.
In the past, I recommended immersing the bird in a liquid brine for at least 12 hours (overnight). While this still remains an option, I now prefer a simple dry rub consisting of 2 tablespoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of pepper, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of thyme. Apply the mixture liberally inside the cavity and under the skin, then wrap the bird tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 48 hours. Also, you may want to add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the mixture which tends to make the skin crisper.
Forget the expensive dry rubs at Whole Foods. It is simply a rip-off! The goal is to keep the white meat moist and a simple dry rub is generally all that it is required to do so. A spatchcocoked turkey helps insure that both the dark meat and white meat cook properly.
Whichever way you decide to celebrate Thanksgiving, please enjoy this wonderful family occasion. A well prepared heritage turkey is certainly desirable, but the occasion is more important than how well the food is prepared.
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