I live at a college dormitory, and my floor is having Thanksgiving together, and we decided to buy two smaller birds instead of one big one, for shorter cooking time. However, I wanted to try brining the bird and read that you should avoid pre-brined birds or birds injected with saline solution, and I got so intent on finding one that met this description that somehow I did not notice until I got home that I actually purchased capon. -_- I had assumed Capon was a company name, like Butterball.... Luckily someone else purchased the second bird, and it actually is a turkey.
Anyway, I'm stuck with it now, and I did some research on capon, but I still wanted to brine it but wasn't sure how to go about it properly. This was 35 dollar bird (for 8-1/2 pounds) so I really don't want to screw it up if possible. I've actually never cooked a whole turkey before either, so this is all a new experience for me.
It's a minimally processed capon, with the giblets included. I kept reading that for turkeys, you have to remove the giblets and neck. Is this true for capon too? Obviously I'll remove the giblets, but I wasn't sure if there was anything else I needed to do, or how to even remove the neck. Is it attached and you cut it off or something?
Also, I had wanted to try a wet brine, but all that was left at Williams-Sonoma was a dry brine, and it has the following ingredients:
Kosher salt, sugar, garlic, black pepper, rosemary, lemon peel, French thyme, Indian fennel, Dalmatian sage, red pepper, safflower oil (to prevent separation), bay leaf.
So I'm going to dry brine it, but I read online around that dry brining is more effective when done longer than wet brining. For a 8-1/2 pound bird, how long would I want to dry brine in the fridge for maximum tastiness? Is 24 hours too short? I can do longer if I thaw the capon in cold water for 4-5 hours today (it's still extremely frozen in my fridge) and then after it is thawed, starting the brining.
Also, would I season the capon again before roasting it, after washing off the brine? I know I would NOT add any more salt, but I wasn't sure if I should add other seasonings like garlic or pepper or rosemary or thyme to the bird before roasting, or if after the brine, that would be overkill. Also, I know you rub the brine inside the cavity and on the outside of the skin, but seasonings right before roasting are rubbed under the skin, right?
Next, I've been reading that the bird is juicier if you cook it breast side down, but I've never cooked a whole bird, so I don't know that this means. Does that mean the legs are sticking up in the air, or facing down in the pan? And it says to check the bird temperature and make sure it's 165 degrees in the thigh when done... is that the legs? Do I just stick my digital thermometer in one of the legs? I'm not sure where the thigh is...
Also, I'm not stuffing my bird, but the bird did come with the giblets included, as mentioned above. Do I cook those in the pan put next to the bird? We're using the drippings to make turkey gravy, so I wasn't sure how added giblets would affect taste. I was planning on putting a few stalks of celery and some onion and carrots at the bottom of the pan, so I wasn't sure what to do with the giblets. Also, would I put anything inside the cavity of the capon as well? I'm not stuffing it, but I know sometimes people put a little thing or two in there for flavor?
Also, do you have to baste capon? I was going to do the tented foil method, uncovering it the last 30 minutes, because our oven is a little screwy and tends to brown things too fast before the outsides can cook, so I think this will help prevent that somewhat. And should I flip it breast side up near the end at all?
Some sites say to tie the legs together before cooking with twine. What does this do for the bird? Does it make a difference if I do it or not?
Sorry for all the questions! I'm just so new at this and was not even sure how using capon instead of turkey would affect everything. @_@ I'm so nervous. This is my first Thanksgiving where I'm doing most of the cooking, and we're having 15 guests coming, so I want everything to go smoothly.