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Your favorite no-brine recipe for roasted whole turkey


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Your favorite no-brine recipe for roasted whole turkey

Stein the Fine | | Nov 26, 2011 09:06 AM

Assuming that some people will be cooking whole turkey again in a month, there should still be interest in cooking methods. I know I'm flying in the face of most "expert" opinion, but brined turkeys have always tasted inferior to my unbrined one, IMO. There hasn't been much on this forum from the no-brine crowd, so I'll describe one way I've done an unbrined turkey in the past, and I'd love to hear others.

I think the most important factor for a yummy bird is the bird itself. I've never used a turkey that's been frozen. Everyone understands that w/ chicken freezing breaks down the cell walls causing the meat to lose flavorful juices. Why should it be otherwise w/ turkey? I believe that pre-basted turkeys and brining turkeys originated to compensate for the lost juice in frozen birds. So I've always bought my bird where I can order a fresh one that arrives the day before I'll cook it, presumably recently slaughtered. This usually means a "free-range", veg-fed turkey, but I don't know if that or the freshness is responsible for the superior taste and texture.

I no longer make my turkey the best possible way. The one I cooked that way was my first bird, I was using a borrowed vintage cookbook, I didn't cook one for a number of years after that, and I no longer remember the exact times & temperatures. To my best recollection, I rubbed the bird everywhere I could reach, under & over the skin, inside & out w/ a mixture of powdered poultry seasoning mixed w/ a smaller amount of quality white garlic powder, but I didn't put an excessive amount anyplace. I lightly salted the skin and cavity only. I placed the bird unstuffed on a shallow roasting rack in a pan, and sadly, I can't remember if it was breast up or down. Then I took an unbleached flour sack lintless towel, saturated it w/ melted butter, laid it over the bird and put the covered turkey in a preheated oven. I'd gotten a simple seasoned bread, butter, celery & onions dressing ready, w/ very little broth made by boiling the giblets in minimal water, which I placed it in a casserole dish and left it in the refrigerator during the early part of cooking the turkey. I hadn't planned on making gravy, probably b/c back then I didn't know how. As soon as the turkey started producing juices, I started basting that towel at regular intervals. Whatever juice I didn't need to keep the towel moist, went into the dish of dressing. At some point when it was moist enough, I put the covered casserole of dressing in the oven w/ the turkey, and at another point in time specified by the recipe, I removed the towel to let the skin get crisp. I salted the small amount of juices produced during the later part of the roasting and poured it over the sliced turkey before serving. As I said, that was the best turkey I've ever made, and even in my exhausted, stressed out, newbie cook state, I truly enjoyed it.

I've produced many quite nice turkeys since then (usually butter rubbed, breast down, foil tented), but how I wish I knew how to do the flour sacking one w/o risking setting the kitchen on fire.