Slice of Life: A primer on buying and cooking the bird


Of the approximately 44 million turkeys that will be prepared across America this Thanksgiving, probably half of them will be way too big and the other half overcooked. O.K., maybe a bit of hyperbole (except the number of turkeys, that’s fairly accurate). This is how I do it.

1. Select a decent bird. If a free range turkey is within your budget, go for it. If not, don’t worry too much because brining can make even a frozen grocery store turkey turn out pretty dang good.

2. You don’t need a turkey the size of a Honda Civic with drumsticks the size of tennis rackets. A good rule of thumb is one pound per person, which will do you fine for dinner and a meal of leftovers.

3. Make a brine with two gallons of water, a quart of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt and a quart of sugar, and soak the bird for no more than eight hours in a cooler or a large pail in the fridge. Drain, rinse thoroughly and dry.

4. Stuff and truss the turkey just before roasting at 325 degrees upside down and flip it halfway through the cooking time. The breast portion will be super moist with no basting necessary. You can raise the oven temperature a little if you’re worried about the browning, but please don’t put foil over the turkey.

5. Use an instant thermometer and roast the turkey until it reads about 155 to 160 degrees in the thigh. While you’re making the gravy and the bird rests, the temperature will climb at least another 5 degrees.

6. Unless the occasion demands theater, break down and carve the turkey in the kitchen. It’s just easier!