This recipe is for a 12ish pound turkey as I’ve found it’s the ideal cooking size. If I need to feed more people, I’ll opt for two 12ish pound birds over a 20ish pound bird.
I love using Diestel turkeys. It’s a great family-owned company, and I’ve found their birds to be the best.
This is a multi-day recipe (ideally), but you can speed up the process by skipping the brine and air drying.
And make sure that you have a meat thermometer to test doneness.
In a big pot or a cooler, dissolve 2 cups of table salt in about 2 gallons of water. Submerge the bird for 4 hours. Keep cool, like in the fridge or in the garage. If you’re short on time, skip it.
Dry skin with paper towels.
Loosen the breast skin by shoving your hand in between the muscle and the skin on both breasts.
Make a mixture of about 1 Tbsp garlic powder, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground pepper and using a spoon, distribute it as evenly as possible under the skin of the breasts. You can kind of push it around with your hands too.
Put fresh herbs (thyme and sage are my favs but rosemary is great too) under the skin too.
Put a couple Tbsp of cold butter under the skin.
Put a peeled onion and an orange and/or apple cut in half in the cavity. Toss in a handful of whatever herbs you used on the breast too.
Set the bird breast side up in a shallow pan—like a rimmed cookie sheet, not a high sided roasting pan—with a rack in the bottom. When you get to roasting, this setup will let the dark meat cook at a higher temp. Some roasting pans can create a heat sink and the meat cooks unevenly.
Put it in the fridge and let it sit uncovered for 8 hours and up to 24 hours to air dry. This is not necessary but it creates crisper skin and deeper flavor. If you’re short on time, skip it.
Take the bird out of the fridge at least an hour before you’re ready to cook it to let it warm up.
Preheat oven to 500F.
Oil skin and generously season with salt (course or flake) and ground pepper. Feel free to and garlic/onion powder outside too or if you’re feeling festive, I love to douse the entire bird with paprika.
It’s time to roast!
Cook uncovered at 500F for 30 mins, breast up (you may experience some smoke from the oven. Don’t fret!)
Reduce oven temperature to 350F and take turkey out. Cover the breasts with tinfoil. This helps the breast cook slower than the dark meat.
Put it back in the oven.
Using a thermometer, check every 30 mins, likely 60-90 mins more
It’s done when the breast measure 150-155F (not 160F!). Dark meat should be 175F+
Take tinfoil off and let sit for at least 30 mins (and up to 2 hrs is totally fine)
This is not a Hallmark or Holiday Vacation moment, don’t do it at the dining room or kitchen table.
Remove the breast by cutting along lengthwise along the breastbone (tip to tail), and follow the curvature of the bones. Gently pull the meat away while using the knife to remove the meat from the ribs. After you have both breasts removed, slice against the grain. Check Google if you need help. All the other carving is pretty straight forward.