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Juicy Tender Turkey Recipe that WOWs

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Ingredients

Adjust Servings:
4.5kg Turkey 4.5-5kg thawed and washed
Brine
1.5l Water
2 cubes Knorr Chicken Stock Cube
1 tbsp mushroom powder
1/2 cup Salt fine salt
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Black Peppercorns crushed, in stock bag
2 tsp Coriander Seeds in stock bag
10 slices Ginger
2 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tbsp Paprika Mexican
6 Bay leaves
4 sprigs Rosemary fresh
6 sprigs Oregano fresh
1/2 cup Hua Diao Wine Or any sweet aromatic wine
1 bag Ice
2L Cold water
Dry Rub
2tbsp Sea salt
2tbsp Paprika Sweet or Spicy or Mixed
1tsp Chilli Powder Very mild
2tbsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Black Pepper to taste
2 tbsp Olive Oil enough to drizzle
Aomatics
1 Lemon cut in slices
3 sprigs Rosemary bruised
2 sprigs Oregano bruised
5 pcs Bay leaves crushed
3 pcs Kaffir Lime Leaves crushed
5 sprigs Thyme
4 stalks Coriander cut 2 inches long
1 bulb Garlic top cut open
1 pcs Onion Cut half

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Juicy Tender Turkey Recipe that WOWs

Learn how to make a Juicy, tender roast turkey for this Christmas!

  • 6 days 2.5 hours
  • Serves 12
  • Medium

Ingredients

  • Brine

  • Dry Rub

  • Aomatics

Directions

Share

Many people claim that turkeys are dry compared to other poultry say ducks or chickens. But actually turkey can be juicy and tender too!  It is just about cooking it the right way. Here, we would like share a recipe to a juicy, tender turkey that will be as good as your chicken. Impossible? Well, read on. This juicy tender turkey recipe is Mexican inspired but you are welcome to change the spices to suit your own theme and taste. We always have a different cuisine theme every year. The first year was British, with recipes inspired by Gordon Ramsay’s Christmas dinners. The second year was Mexican and last year we had Italian. I would love to share the Italian one with you too, but I lost my notes.

First I would like to apologise that I do not have more photos, but we were never really food photos people so we did not take many especially of the cut turkey ready to serve. But from the amounts of turkey consumed over last 2 years compared to the first year when we did not brine, rest assured that brining is the way to go.

Our first Christmas as a married couple, Ed was really excited to host our first christmas party for our family and spent a lot of time reviewing recipes by some of our favorite celebrity chefs like  Chef John, Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver,etc. We finally decided to choose a recipe by Gordon as it looks like his method will logically result in a moist bird and also because we wanted a grander fare. Gordon’s recipe called for us to butter the bird under its skin. Tried and although we were happy with the result and it was in fact more moist than all whole roasted turkeys we had tried in our lives, it was still a tad dry in the breast areas and it was the gravy and cranberry sauce that kinda made it more palatable.

So the search goes on. We heard about brining and we decided to give it a shot after Ed’s colleagues told him convinced him that the result is really a very juicy and tender turkey. I also happened to taste a really good turkey breast prepared by a good friend and she said that Butterball brines their turkey breasts which results in such a delicious breast, which would be dry in normal circumstances.

But the worrying thing about brining is that none of the above celebrity chefs seems to have done it and we could not seem to find any recipes online that really excited us. Furthermore I set a Mexican theme for this year’s Christmas dinner and we definitely could not find a recipe that fits. ( I was secretly thinking if the turkey should fail, at least the dry meat will be consumed with sour cream and salsas and guacamole in a fajita. Hehe… Idea right?)

I was so hesitant that I started exploring marinating with yoghurt instead of brining. That seems more popular! I mean Indians marinate chicken with yoghurt to make tandoori chicken… And the lactic acids and acidophilus in yoghurt should help break down the meat and tenderize it right? So I went online to do my bit of research on marinating turkey with yoghurt and even buttermilk. I came across a recipe by another blogger who perfected her recipe over 6 turkeys and it does look very convincing and inspiring. She also shared tips from her experiments. So I decided to try her method with 2 chicken thighs in my freezer.

To cut the long story short, I was not impressed with the results especially since I only used dark meat from a much smaller bird and technically marinated much longer than she did with her turkey. It was in short extremely disappointing. Maybe I need to do it few more times like her so as to master the technique but I shudder at the prospect of having to eat the same thing over the next 3 dinners before Christmas (and it is really so bad that I was not confident trying 3 more times will help). It was not terrible but not something I will bother eating or cooking again.

ABOUT BRINING

According to WikipediaBrine is a mixture of water and salt used to preserve or season vegetables, fruit, fish and meat in a process known as brining (a variant of pickling). In this case the clear brine may be flavored with spices, caramel, vinegar, etc.

Before I began, I studied some recipes online before choosing to use a method by Alton Brown for inspiration. I chose Alton because his recipes are trustworthy to date. Depending on the theme I am having, I will adjsut the spices and herbs in each brine accordingly. Eg. Mexican theme, I added paprika and for Italian, it was just old good Italian herb bouquet. I wasn’t keen to dump a whole bottle of Riesling in there (but think this year we have too much white wine so I may consider that.)

For roasting method and time, we decided to follow Alton Brown’s method because he is always so scientific. It worked superbly and roasting time was also a lot shorter than last year if we had gone by weight of turkey. For our 10 pound turkey, it will usually need 3.5 to 4 hours. We took only about 2.5 hours.

They key to roasting? Invest in a good roasting thermometer, besides having a good oven of course. Love this as it is a timer plus a has a  temperature alarm which will alert you once your desired set temperature is achieved. We simply set the alarm to ring once the internal temperature of the turkey is at 161 degrees Fahrenheit. We also find their timer alarm more precise than our analogue timer alarm on our standalone stove.

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The result was a turkey with crispy skin and meat so moist, the juices ran all over the chopping board to my countertop while carving. Sorry I was so busy wiping as Ed carved that I forgot to take pictures. 😭😭😭😭

So these are pics of turkey after carving. We cut it into smaller pieces as they were to be eaten as fajitas and family gave the feedback that this turkey was super moist! We also made stuffed jalapeño peppers by the side.

juicy tender turkey recipe mexican juicy tender turkey recipe mexican 2

juicy tender turkey recipe italian

juicy tender turkey recipe italian spread
Our Italian potluck spread from each pair of sibling and spouse. Family of great cooks!

Without further ado, the recipe and method below.

Thaw the bird: 

Usually in Singapore, we can only get our hands on frozen turkeys. Being such a huge bird, thawing it is actually requires a lot more time than for example thawing your chicken and we also have to note that uneven thawing at the wrong temperature can be a health hazard. So please take some care and thaw well. Usually the packaging includes thawing instructions. But here is a video on 2 methods you can consider depending on how much time you have.

One method is to leave the turkey in the chiller on a roasting pan in case any juices drip out as it thaws. This usually takes more than a day for a 4.5 to 5kg turkey and I will usually give it 2.5 to 3 days (1 day for every 4lbs of turkey so it will be slightly more than 2 days for ours). Why give yourself so much stress right? BTW, that is the size I work with because with so much food on the table, there is no way 12 pax can finish more than that. (The year we did Mexican, I hardly have any left because we did not have other proteins I think. And the year we did Italian, we had half of turkey and half of ham left. So just to give you an idea.)

The second method is to use water to defrost and keep changing the water every 30 minutes. You usually need 30 minutes for each pound of turkey so for 4.5kg (10lb), it will take me 5 hours plus and quite a bit of water, not forgetting I have to keep going in to change the water. I usually do second method for other smaller frozen items and even then I sometimes don’t change the water unless it is quite a bit of stuff. To me, the easiest way is still to just leave it in the fridge. Saves water, saves trouble.

After thawing, remove innards and neck stuffed in cavity. (You can google on ways to defrost a turkey) wash and pat dry. If you realise the inner cavity is still a little frozen, fret not. It will defrost by the end of your brine.

For brine:

Honestly, there is no hard and fast rule for the brine. Just make sure it is salty (5-8% of your total water weight) enough. The whole point of the salt besides flavouring the turkey, also helps water to retain in the meats after cooking it. The sugar helps to balance the flavours a little while the wine and aromatics serve only to perfume the meat.

Of course the celebrity chefs will call for wines like Riesling (I saw one recipe that calls for dumping one whole bottle in… in Singapore that is rather extravagant unless you already have a bottle lying around and you do not intend to drink it.) In fact, Alton did not use any wine. So you can even choose to skip it and just up on the spices and other aromatics.

Because of our Mexican theme, I added paprika to the brine. Actually I doubt I really needed to as I think having it in the rub will suffice. But oh well. For Italian, we upped the Italian herbs. If I wanted to do a Chinese one, I will use loads of soya sauce and the white parts of the spring onion as well as more garlic, ginger, and maybe a whole bottle of rose wine which is probably very indulgent as well. Anyway, you get the idea…. Have fun and be creative. Dare to explore! Just don’t forget the salt.

Brine the turkey for 2 to 3 days for my 4.5kg to 5kg turkey and if you want to do it a little longer, be my guest, but probably no more than 4 days for a 5 pound turkey. This is really like marinating meat… a very big piece of meat.

The rub:

Here, you can again choose the appropriate ingredients depending on your theme and this will have a more direct impact on your turkey. You can also choose to butter the under skin of the turkey like how Gordon did it. But we did not bother as we wanted to also witness the full powers of brining alone.

Stuffing:

You can choose to stuff your turkey like we did with Italian (we did a prosciutto and pear stuffing) or just stuff it with aromatics like we did with Mexican (lemons and herbs) or just leave it empty like we did with British following Gordon’s recipe. It is all a personal choice. The good thing about stuffing it with something like prosciutto and ham or glutinous rice and sausages (as a helper used to do for our roast chickens) is that you have another side dish with minimal work, making full use of the synergy of  the flavours of the turkey and the stuffing.

The good thing about filling it with aromatics is that the scents of the aromatics especially lemon will perfume the meat so beautifully. If you are feeling lazy and the turkey is more than enough food or if like us you have other plans for stuffing (we did this stuffing that year and it was pretty good though oh so much work!! But it was really fun.)

Equipment:

  • A huge stock pot that can fit your turkey and go into your fridge.
  • Measuring cups
  • Empty wine bottle or a baking dish that can help keep your turkey from floating upwards
  • ladle
  • baking tray
  • aluminium foil
  • meat thermometer
  • chopping board
  • carving knife
  • fork or thongs

Now that the turkey is done, how do you carve it and serve it nicely? Here is a video from Jamie to show you 2 ways. Have fun and enjoy! Merry Christmas!


PS: We hope to share pictures of the carved turkey this year. =) Note to self: Remember to take photos!!!

How about wow-ing your party further by making your own pasta or bread to enjoy with the turkey? Or a delicious soup that you can use with those lefotover turkey bones (make a stock)? Simply switch the chicken for turkey. Or for more recipes and ideas, visit our homepage or click on our FOOD tab on the menu.

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Steps

1
Done
1.5 hours

Prepare brine

Boil 1.5l water and add all ingredients for brine. Boil for 30 minutes and then simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool. This can be done before removing thawing turkey from chiller and prepping it for brine. If not time to cool, just add in cold water and ice to reduce temperature faster.

2
Done
2 days

Brine turkey

Add cold water and ice to cooled brine so as to bring temperature down to below 10 degrees C. Add turkey in the brine and use a glass bottle or glass baking dish to keep the turkey submerged in the brine. Cover and store in fridge. (I had to remove a shelf from my fridge to do this) Brine for 2 days.

3
Done

Preheat Oven

Preheat oven to 250C .

4
Done

Prepare a turkey shield

Remove turkey from the brine, ensuring that all water is out from cavity. Throw the brine away. Pat dry the turkey with kitchen paper towels. Using aluminium foil, fold into a triangle big enough to cover the entire top of the turkey and press onto the turkey body to form a mold. Remove and set aside for later use. This is so that the dark meat can cook longer without overcooking and drying the breast meat.

5
Done

Prepare turkey

Place turkey on roasting rack and tray. Mix turkey rub together. Drizzle turkey all over with olive oil and rub all over the outer skin evenly. Then apply the dry rub all over the turkey starting with the cavity. Then stuff the aromatics into the turkey with half a lemon, herbs, garlic the other half of lemon and onion. Then continue rubbing the turkey starting with the base, then flip over and ending with the turkey breast. Do not forget the under sides of the wings and the crevices near the inner thighs. Tuck the wing tips under so that they do not burn.

6
Done

Place turkey in oven

Place turkey in oven such that the head part of the turkey is facing in so that the meatier part of the breast is near the warmer side of the oven.

7
Done
30m

Roast at highest heat

Roast at 250C for 30 minutes to brown the skin.

8
Done
2.5h

Reduce heat to 175C

Cover the breast part of the turkey with the tent foil you created. Insert a thermometer probe into the thickest part of the turkey leg and set it at 72C. Reduce the oven heat to 175C and continue baking for another 2 to 2.5 hours or until the meat thermometer shows that the inner temperature is achieved at 72C.

9
Done
15m

Remove the turkey

Remove turkey from oven but do not remove the foil from the turkey breast. Let the turkey rest for 10-15 minutes or until the juices stop flowing.

10
Done
10m

Take a photo, carve and serve!

Remove the foil, take a picture of your long awaited turkey! Now drain all juices and then place the turkey on a clean chopping board. Take a carving knife and a fork to start carving your turkey. Refer to our video in the main blog on how you can carve the turkey.

BluRain

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