For Juicier Turkey, Crispy Skin and Better Gravy, Dry-Brine and Roast Your Turkey in Parts

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If you’re one of the people who makes the turkey for turkey dinner, people rely on you to make the bland and flavorless bird something exciting. While you probably use a brine to pull this off, most guests probably really only get excited for the sides and not the turkey.

This year, change that.

Forget the giant bucket of sloshy brine, injections, or vat of oil for deep frying. Make your turkey memorable this year by dry-brining it and roasting it parts.

Why dry-brining is better
[Photos: Saqib Shafi]

[Photos: Saqib Shafi]

  • Easier to season. A traditional brine means gallons of messy, boiling hot salt water and finding a place to store the turkey. With a dry-brine, you simply rub a salt-and-spice mixture onto the bird’s meat. It’s that easy.
  • More turkey flavor. Traditional brines do make turkey moist. But some of that moisture is excess water from the brine making the meat taste watery. With a salt mixture, the only moisture you’ll taste are the turkey’s natural juices leading to a more intensely turkey-tasting turkey.
  • Crispier skin. That excess water gets into the turkey’s skin, as well, which is why brined turkeys don’t have very crisp skin. A dry-brined turkey, though? Crispy skin for days.
Why roasting in parts is better

me_turkey_2015_07_rest_meat_temp

  • Perfectly cooked meat. The turkey’s oblong-shape makes it impossible to roast it in a way to nail the right final temperatures for the white and dark meat. Roasting in parts lets you take out pieces just as they finish leading to perfectly done meat throughout.
  • Better gravy, made ahead. Forget using store bought vegetable broth because you can’t find Halal chicken broth. With the backbone removed use it with the neck to make a much richer stock base for fully-flavored turkey gravy.
  • Easier to handle, faster to carve. Don’t you hate having to carve to remove a piping hot 15-20 lb bird then slice it as your guests await dinner? Turkey parts are not only much safer, theyre easier to handle with tongs. And by cutting into parts ahead of time, you cut that waiting time down by half.

Now, you could still roast your turkey whole or butterflied if you like. But definitely go with a dry brine over a brine. The juicier meat and crispy skin are well worth breaking from tradition.

How to dry-brine and roast your turkey in parts

Step 1: Cut the turkey into parts

You’ve got your Halal turkey, right? Cut it into parts, keeping the entire breast whole and splitting the legs and thighs (keep them together for a small bird under 10 lbs like mine).

Step 2: Apply a dry-rub

me_turkey_2015_03_salt-mixture_under_skinLook how much easier this is than brining. Just rub the salt mixture under the skin and onto the meat of the entire bird. The salt will penetrate through the meat faster this way.

Step 3: Let it chill

me_turkey_2015_04_fridge_restNow, for the key. Give the turkey a rest in your fridge for at least 1 day, even better for 2, best for 3. Want more space in your fridge? Use a smaller tray. Still more room than a whole turkey in the fridge.

Step 4: Make the broth

me_turkey_2015_05_turkey_brothForget vegetable broth or scrambling to find some sort of Halal option for chicken broth. Use the neck and removed backbone from your Halal turkey to make a rich turkey stock for a fully-turkey flavored gravy, all of which you can make ahead.

Step 5: Roast it low and slow

me_turkey_2015_06_slow_roastIt’s roasting time but with a twist. Let the parts roast over low and slow at 275° F until they’re done, letting the gentle heat cook them more evenly for juicier meat. The vegetables and aromatics underneath will add even more flavor to the drippings.

Step 6: Make the gravy

me_turkey_2015_08_finish_gravyAs the turkey rests make a rich, ultra-flavorful gravy using the drippings and that turkey stock we made ahead of time. Your house will smell amazing.

Step 7: Finish it hot, carve and serve

me_turkey_2015_09_turkey_platterNow for home stretch. Launch your oven to 500° F and add the turkey parts back in until the skin gets nice and brown and ultra crispy. By this point, you gravy should be done. Let the turkey parts rest again, carve out two breasts and thigh bones, slice the meat, and transfer to a warm platter.

me_turkey_2015_10_with_sidesThe result is turkey better than a traditional brine. The meat is intensely turkey tasting and juicy without any extra water, the skin is ultra-crisp instead of soggy, and the whole thing was a lot easier to handle.

And if you cooked it in parts, you probably nailed the final temperatures for all of the turkey. That means your guests won’t only ravage all the dark meat from the legs, thighs, and wings only. They’ll actually want to eat the white meat from the breasts. They will be amazed at how good properly cooked white meat is.

me_turkey_2015_11_food_plate

So, this year, get people excited for your turkey with a dry-brine roasted in parts. As you wonder why you ever brined it traditionally in the first place, you’ll be enjoying one of the best turkey dinner plates you’ve had in years.

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