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How to Cook a Turkey

January 31st, 2010 · 1 Comment · Cooking

How to Cook a Turkey

flickr - Ann&Ming

There are a few popular ways to cook a turkey, but in my mind, there’s only one: brining and then frying.  I’m going to make this as painless as possible:

What you’ll need:

To brine:

  • 10-14 lb. turkey (chicken also works well)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup salt
  • Optional herbs: sage, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, chili flakes
  • Lots of ice cubes – at least a few trays full
  • Large bucket or cooler
  1. Purchase a smallish thawed turkey: 10-14 pounds is enough for 7-10 people with plenty of leftovers.
  2. Put your turkey in a large bucket or (even better) an insulated cooler and fill with enough water to cover the turkey plus about an inch extra.
  3. Remove the turkey and set aside.  Pour some of the water from the cooler or bucket into a large saucepan.
  4. Prepare a brine by adding one cup of salt, one cup of sugar and whatever herbs and spices you’d like to the saucepan.
  5. Boil for a few minutes, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
  6. Pour the contents of the saucepan back into the bucket or cooler (still full of cold water).
  7. Add a few trays of ice and stir the brine to cool it.
  8. Put the turkey back into the container, making sure it’s fully covered with brine.  Weigh it down with an inverted bowl if necessary.
  9. Try to keep the brine cool by refrigerating or keeping in a cool spot.  Keeping the temperature below 40ºF is ideal.
  10. Remove the turkey after 8-12 hours and pat dry.

And that’s it!  A brined turkey (or chicken) is more flavorful and moist, with more tender meat.

Now that you have a great brined turkey, it’s time to fire up the fryer.

To fry you’ll need:

  • Your 10-14 lb. brined turkey (or a whole chicken)
  • An electric or gas turkey fryer
  • Enough frying oil (the best is peanut oil) to cover your bird
  • A cooking thermometer

Directions vary by type of fryer, so I won’t get into that much here.  I find that an electric fryer is the most convenient, safest way to get a great fried turkey.  Fry your turkey at about 325°F for 3 minutes per pound, or until the turkey is a rich golden brown and 170°F or higher at the thickest part of the breast, as measured by your cooking thermometer.

It’s that easy!  Brining is very hard to mess up, so experiment a bit with different herbs and brining times.  While frying takes a bit more preparation, you’ll end up with a great-tasting bird in less than half the time needed to roast.

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