I have been asked by many people how to cook a turkey, even my ex-husband. He now cooks a turkey almost every year and my understanding is that it is quite good.
There are many approaches to cooking a turkey and tradition can play a large part in how you prepare your bird. There are those who like to deep fry (would love to try that one day), those that brine in salty or my favorite, salty/sweet water, and those that keep it simple with seasonings and butter or oil.
Recently salt curing, often called dry-brine, has been making a showing. Now I have made a prime rib encrusted in rock salt (YUM!) and was impressed with the results (not salty AT ALL) so this peaked my interest. You need to think ahead a few days (4 to be exact) but the results should be wonderful. The first day it will take about 20 to 30 minutes to prepare the turkey, days 2 and 3 only take about 5 minutes. Day 4 is cooking day. There should be about 30 minutes of hands on work to prepare the bird, about an hour to allow the turkey to come to room temperature, and the cooking time (depending on the size of your bird).
I am going to make a small turkey (13 pounds) for my family because. Although we are going to my Dad's house for Thanksgiving my family always loves to have plenty of turkey to snack on and use to create other meals. You can do this along with me, follow behind a few days or wait, and see the results on Sunday (just in time for you to start your own salt cured bird for the holiday). I started with a fresh (not frozen) bird but you can use a frozen turkey if you like just run it under cool water for about 10 or 15 minutes when rinsing it to start the thawing.
Salt Cured Turkey (day one)
Kosher salt (coarse)
Bay leaves, optional
Rubbed (or ground) sage, optional
Crushed Rosemary, optional
Dried Lemon Zest, optional
Plastic turkey roasting bag or small trash bag
In a small bowl or jar crush the bay leaves and then add the sage, rosemary and lemon zest if you choose to use them. The herbs are not required but will add more flavors to finished turkey. Add the salt to the herbs and crush everything together using the bottom of one or your spice jars (as you would with a pestle and mortar) to bring out the aroma of the herbs. If you choose not to use the herbs, just measure out the salt in the measurements listed below.
For every 5 pounds of turkey use:
3 bay leaves, broken up
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 dried lemon zest
1 tablespoon of salt
Set aside the bowl with the salt mixture.
Open the turkey package and remove the neck and gizzards from the inside of the turkey. Make sure you check the neck opening to be sure you get it all. Rinse the turkey, inside and out, under cool running water. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels, making sure to get the inside and all the hidden nooks.
Place the dried turkey in a roasting pan. I opened up the roasting bad and placed the turkey inside to try to simplify things but you can always move the turkey into the bag after you season it. Starting on the legs, pat the salt mixture onto the skin (not under the skin), making sure to tilt the turkey a little and get some salt on the bottom of the bird, move up the bird and continue to the pat the salt onto the breast. Toss a few pinches of the salt mixture into the inside of the turkey. Concentrate the majority of the salt mixture on the legs and breasts.