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Thanksgiving recipes: Turkey

November 23, 2013

Dry-brined turkey

2 hours, 50 minutes, plus 3 days brining and drying time. Serves 11 to 15

1 (12- to 16-pound) turkey

Kosher salt

1. Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it. Measure 1 tablespoon of salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you'd have 3 tablespoons).

2. Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Place the turkey on its back and salt the breasts, concentrating the salt in the center, where the meat is thickest. You'll probably use a little more than a tablespoon. It should look liberally seasoned but not over-salted.

3. Turn the turkey on one side and sprinkle the entire side with salt, concentrating on the thigh. You should use a little less than a tablespoon. Flip the turkey over and do the same with the opposite side.

4. Place the turkey in a 2½-gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. Place the turkey breast-side up in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, turning it onto its breast for the last day.

5. Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface, and the skin should be moist but not wet. Place the turkey breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.

6. On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

7. Place the turkey breast-side down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan; put it in the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn the turkey over so the breast is facing up (it's easiest to do this by hand, using kitchen towels or oven mitts).

8. Reduce the oven to 325 degrees, return the turkey to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh but not touching the bone reads 165 degrees, about 2¾ hours total roasting.

9. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a warm platter or carving board; tent loosely with foil. Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. Carve and serve.

EACH OF 15 SERVINGS: 564 calories; 77 grams protein; 0 carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 26 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 261 mg cholesterol; 856 mg sodium.

Dry-brined turkey: Measure 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for every 5 pounds of turkey weight. Sprinkle turkey with the salt, concentrating on breasts and thighs but covering entire bird. Place turkey in a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 3 days, rubbing it once a day to distribute the salt. The night before roasting, remove turkey from the bag, pat it dry with paper towels and put it on a plate uncovered in the refrigerator to dry the skin thoroughly. Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and cook at 425 degrees for 30 minutes; reduce the temperature to 325 and continue cooking until thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

Spiced salts for dry-brined turkey: Instead of plain kosher salt, for rosemary-lemon salt, grind 1/4 cup kosher salt with 41/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary and 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest. For smoky spiced salt with orange, grind 1/4 cup kosher salt with 1 tablespoon smoked paprika or pimenton de la Vera, 11/2 teaspoons onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar and 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest. For sage and bay salt, grind together 1/4 cup kosher salt, 10 dried bay leaves, crumbled, 3/4 teaspoon ground sage and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Spatchcocked turkey: In a hurry? Use a chef's knife or poultry shears to remove the backbone from the turkey, then lay it flat on the work surface and press down hard on the center of the breast to flatten it completely. Season as you wish and roast at 450 degrees until a thermometer inserted deep in the thigh reaches 165 degrees. Let rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

Barbecued turkey: Instead of roasting turkey in the oven, smoke it on an outdoor grill. Dry-brine the turkey, using one of the seasoned salts if you choose. Arrange the lighted coals around the outer circumference of the grill with a loaf pan in the center to catch drippings. Soak 1/4 pound of hickory chips in water. Once the fire has burned down, sprinkle the hickory chips over the coals. Place the turkey breast-side up on the grill rack and cook, covered, until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. You may need to replenish the coals during the cooking. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Brined turkey: Dissolve 2/3 cup kosher salt in 1 gallon of water in a pot just large enough to hold the turkey. Submerge the turkey, cover the pot with foil and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Remove from the pot and pat thoroughly dry. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. Let rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

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