It's the centerpiece of Thanksgiving: the highly-anticipated turkey. Preparing and roasting it correctly can be intimidating, but this detailed recipe makes it clear. You'll be left with a perfectly roasted bird covered in crispy skin, a delicious spice rub, and bright citrus flavors. Get ready to win at the main dish this holiday!
1tbspkosher salt for every 4 lbs turkey (example: 3 tbsp for a 12 lb turkey)
For the basting liquid
1 ½cupsunsalted butter
In a small bowl, combine the garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, black pepper, orange zest, brown sugar, and kosher salt. Mix to evenly combine.
Remove the giblets and neck from the thawed turkey and set the turkey on a small rimmed baking sheet that will catch any juices. Gently separate the turkey skin from the meat by working fingers in between and lifting the skin, being careful not to tear the skin, including the breast, thighs, and legs.
Rub the salt mixture over the entire turkey, including under the skin and the cavity. Once the salt rub is all used on the turkey, set the turkey in the refrigerator uncovered for 8 to 24 hours, with 24 hours being ideal. Leaving the turkey uncovered allows the skin to dry out and become crisp during roasting.
After brining, preheat the oven to 400°F.
In the bottom of the roasting pan fitted with a wire rack. Place the turkey on the rack with the breast facing up. Bend the wings forward and underneath the breasts, protecting the tips from the heat. Tie the legs together with butcher's twine.
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, orange juice, white wine, and bay leaves. Set over medium-low heat to melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, soak four 16-inch square pieces of cheesecloth in the butter mixture. Lay the soaked layers of cheesecloth over the breast of the turkey and down the sides, roughly covering halfway down the thighs. Baste more butter onto the cheesecloth as needed to ensure it is saturated.
Place the turkey in the preheated oven. Roast at 400°F for 30 minutes and then lower the temperature to 375°F. During roasting, baste the cheesecloth-covered turkey every 30 minutes. In the final 45 minutes of roasting, remove the cheesecloth to evenly brown the turkey. Roast until the breast registers 160°F and the thighs register 170°F. Turkey takes approximately 10-15 minutes to roast per pound. Check the turkey's internal temperature during roasting to ensure it is not overcooking, as each turkey can roast at a different rate. Once the turkey is at temperature, remove it from the oven and allow the turkey to rest for 20-30 minutes. The turkey will continue to roast from the residual heat, bringing the breast to 165°F and the thighs to 175°F. Once the turkey has rested, carve and serve.
NOTE: Nutritional information is based on a 15 lb turkey.Using your hands, slowly and gently separate the skin from the meat before adding the dry rub. This separation allows more airflow into the area, crisping up the skin. It also makes it easier for the brine to be applied. Be gentle and ensure the skin does not rip.Leaving the turkey exposed in the refrigerator while brining allows air to circulate around the skin to dry it out. This will make it crisper when roasting. The turkey can be covered while brining, but it's based on personal preference.Placement of the turkey on the pan can make a big difference. Placing the wings underneath the turkey ensures the tips don't burn and roasts more evenly. It's the same principle for the legs. The tightly knotted butcher's twine makes sure the bird roasts evenly.Checking the turkey's temperature frequently is key. Once it gets removed from the oven, the internal temperature continues to rise. This means it will be fully cooked once it sits out of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes.