Revolutionize Your Turkey

~By Emily Paster, West of the Loop

Six years ago, I arrived at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving brandishing an article from the now-defunct Gourmet magazine. The authors of the article claimed to have tried every conceivable way to roast a Thanksgiving turkey: brined, basted, slow-cooked, high heat, low heat, everything. The conclusion? It turned out that the easiest way to roast a turkey was also the best way. High heat, short cooking time, no basting, no brining — just blast the bird. The magazine’s editors claimed that the result was a moist turkey with crispy, delicious skin and required almost no work into the bargain. My mother was doubtful but agreed to give it a try.

Well, the editors of Gourmet were right. It was both the easiest and the best turkey that we had ever cooked. My mom could not believe it. Since then, we have roasted our Thanksgiving turkey according to this same method and every time it has been delicious. We have shared the recipe with many doubters, and everyone who tries it is convinced.

You may ask why the recipe does not call for basting. The answer is that constantly opening the oven door causes the temperature to drop and it takes that much longer to finish cooking the bird. Trust me, even without basting, you still end up with crispy skin and moist white meat.

The other benefit to this high-heat method of roasting a turkey is that your oven is not occupied by the bird for half the day, allowing you plenty of time to bake your side dishes and pies for dessert. My advice? Make the pies first. They can be re-heated while you are eating dinner if necessary, so get them out of the way early. We also set the table early in the day – just make sure that little kids stay away from it. Watching the kids on Thanksgiving, incidentally, should be the job of whoever does not cook; in my family, that’s my husband.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! Here’s the recipe:

Simple Roast Turkey

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine (Nov. 2006)

16-lb. turkey at room temperature

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 cup water

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place an oven rack on the lowest rung. Remove any stray feathers or quills from turkey and remove giblets, if included, and set aside. You can use the giblets to make turkey stock for your gravy. Pat turkey dry with paper towels and sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Fold neck skin under the body and pin in place with metal skewers; tie drumsticks together with kitchen twine and tuck wings under body.

Put turkey on rack in large roasting pan. Add 1 cup water to the bottom of the pan. Roast turkey, turning pan 180 degrees halfway through cooking, for 2 ¼ to 2 ¾ hours until internal temperature of thigh registers 170 degrees. Pour any juices from turkey cavity into roasting pan and remove turkey to platter. Let turkey stand for 30 minutes before carving. The turkey will continue to cook during this time. Use the time while the turkey is relaxing to make your gravy and reheat any side dishes.

Bon A Petit!

[Photo credit: The Vault DFW / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND]


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