An Ode to Turkey361
with Ashlee Redger
Test Kitchen Chef
We all have that neighbor that starts decorating for the holidays in mid-autumn and you know what? I respect that. I applaud their festive attitudes and jolly propensities… but I will never be that person. It’s not that I’m some scrooge or hate happiness. It’s just, well, I really love Thanksgiving. You better believe that as soon as August hits, I’m thinking about what I’ll be cooking on that fourth Thursday of November. (Pictured above: Golden Maple Dry Glazed Turkey)
I adore the sweet potato casserole (whether it’s topped with a pecan crumble or piled with sticky, toasted marshmallows), cranberry sauce is a necessity, and green bean casserole deserves every ounce of love I have to give. Oh! And stuffing (although I grew up calling it dressing and prefer it served outside of the bird) is basically required by law on all Thanksgiving tables. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. What I’m saying is, I appreciate every aspect of this annual cooking fest… but my heart really belongs to the turkey.
I’ve talked about this before—and even explained how to make the perfect roast turkey. I stand firmly by my statement about the superiority of turkey over ham. No hate to ham lovers, I’ve just never met a roasted ham that blew my socks off quite like a perfectly cooked turkey. Give me a ham with crispy skin, moist and flavorful white meat, and absolutely succulent dark meat; then we’ll talk.
Not on board? Let me elaborate. The dark meat is easy to make great. It’s hard to overcook because of that beautiful layer of skin and fat that surrounds it in the thigh and legs. The white meat in the breast is the tough part (or, rather, it can be). Yes it’s got a layer of skin to protect it, but there’s a lot of lean meat there and not enough intramuscular fat. It’s all about two things: temperature and moisture. Brining your bird (using our easy-peasy Turkey Brining Kit) can go a loooooonnnnnggg way in keeping the breast from drying out. Bonus? You get to season the meat from the inside out.
As for temperature, overcooking the bird is probably what your Aunt Shirley did wrong all those Thanksgivings while growing up. I get it: you definitely don’t want to start carving only to find your turkey hasn’t made it past medium-rare. There’s a solution though. I would swear an oath on the importance of a digital thermometer—the kind with a wire probe thermometer that can stay in the turkey, even while its in the oven. It’s the best tool I have in my kitchen. Put the probe into the thickest part of the breast, set the temperature alert to 160 degrees, and you’ll have perfectly cooked turkey in just a few hours.
So that leaves the skin, the most valuable real estate for flavor. Want to make your turkey unique? Rub on the barbecue flavor with TSM Kansas City BBQ Rub, go Peruvian with our crowd-fave Chile Lime Seasoning, or think Italian with Cantanzaro Herbs—there aren’t any rules here. Rather stay tradish? Tiny Town isn’t called a Turkey Rub for nothing and candle companies should replicate the smell of Poultry Seasoning for the best holiday aroma (back off Pumpkin Spice).
Those rubs are all awesome options. To me though, our limited-time Golden Maple Dry Glaze takes the cake (pie?) when we’re talking turkey. Brush your bird with oil or melted butter, season generously with the dry glaze, pop it in the oven, and baste with drippings every hour or so to hydrate the glaze. You’ll end up with a beautifully golden turkey, flavored with sweet maple, black pepper, herbs, and garlic—AKA a few of my favorite things.
There you have it. I’ve done all I can to hopefully convince you that turkey is oh-so-worthy of its one special day a year. Now, can we all make a promise to wait until Black Friday to start singing jingles?
I want to see your spiced-up Thanksgiving creations! Tag @savoryspiceshop on Instagram to show off your turkey, sides, pies, and any other holiday culinary traditions.