Dry-brined roast turkey
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Dry-brined roast turkey

48 hours
to dry-brine the turkey

Susan says

Turkey isn’t the most flavourful bird, but it is an easy option if you need to feed a large group.. There are a few ways to make the meat less bland. Buy a heritage breed. They are more expensive and a little harder to find than the battery-farm birds, which are bred primarily for the size of their breasts, but the meat is firmer and more flavourful.

It is essential to salt the bird sufficiently and far enough in advance to let the salt penetrate – allow for at least two days, although three is better. Don’t overcook it – guidelines say that it is ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F), but remove it from the oven before then, because the temperature will rise as the bird rests.

It can be difficult to decide what size of turkey to cook for your group. It also depends on the number of side dishes you're serving, but the general rule is 450g (16oz) of turkey (before it's cooked) per person. Buy a larger bird if you're feeding big eaters.

The turkey should be thawed before it is seasoned. You can thaw it quickly by putting it in a large, clean container of cold water and changing the water every 30 minutes - it takes about an hour per kilo (35½oz).

Five-spice powder isn't usually an ingredient you'd associate with turkey, but the flavour of it is subtle after the bird is cooked.

For the turkey
turkey, 5kg to 7kg (11-15½lbs), thawed
fine sea salt, as necessary
five-spice powder
granulated sugar
150ml (⅔ cup)
dry white wine
cooking oil, for oiling the roasting pan
large onion, peeled
large celery stalk
large carrot, peeled
garlic cloves, peeled
For the gravy
50g (1¾oz)
turkey fat (if there isn't enough, make up the difference with unsalted butter)
60g (½ cup)
plain (all-purpose) flour
about 1 litre (1 quart)
turkey stock
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the neck and innards from the cavity of the turkey and refrigerate them until needed. Check the weight of the bird (it will be listed on the label). If you're using the metric system, multiply the weight of the turkey by .01 – this is the amount of salt you will need; if using avoirdupois (pounds), use 1tsp of salt for every pound of turkey. Weigh (or measure) out the salt, then mix it with the five-spice, sugar and wine. Spread the mixture over the bird and into the cavity, rubbing it into the flesh, and using more on the meaty portions (breast and legs/thighs) and less on the bony parts. Place it on a sturdy tray then wrap it securely and refrigerate for at least two days, giving it a quarter turn every eight hours or so.


About four to five hours (depending on the size of the turkey) before you want to serve the meal, preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Remove the turkey from the fridge and unwrap it. Tilt the turkey over the sink to drain the liquid from the cavity. Dry the bird inside and out with paper towels.


Halve the onion, and put one half of it in the cavity of the turkey, which has been placed breast side-down in a lightly oiled roasting pan. Put the other half of the onion in a separate pan and add the celery stalk and carrot (each cut into several pieces), the garlic cloves and the turkey innards and neck (removed from the packaging).


Place the pans with the bird and the innards/neck/vegetables in the oven and cook at 220°C (430°F) for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180°C (350°F) and cook for 20 minutes. Remove both pans from the oven. Using dry kitchen towels to protect your hands, carefully turn the turkey over so the breast side is up. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone. Put the pan with the turkey back in the oven and cook at 180°C/350°F until the meat thermometer registers 70°C (160°F). If the breast skin is not browned enough, turn the heat to 200°C (390°F) for the last 20 or so minutes of cooking.


While the bird finishes cooking, put the cooked innards/neck, celery, carrot, half onion and garlic cloves into a saucepan and add 2 litres (2 quarts) of water. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan with a lid, turn the heat to low and simmer for an hour. Strain the stock through a colander placed over a bowl.


When the turkey is cooked, move the bird to a large cutting board and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. Pour the liquid in the turkey roasting pan into a measuring cup. The fat will rise to the surface. Spoon off as much fat as possible and put it into a bowl, and use it for the gravy. Pour the cooking juices into the bowl holding the turkey stock.


While the turkey is resting, make the gravy. Put the reserved turkey fat in a skillet placed over a medium flame. When the fat is hot, add the flour. Whisk until smooth, then cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute.


Measure out 1 litre (1 quart) of the turkey stock. Ladle the turkey stock about 100ml (½ cup) at a time into the skillet, whisking constantly to smooth out any lumps. As soon as the mixture is smooth and bubbling, whisk in more stock. Continue to slowly add the stock until the gravy reaches the consistency you like, then add salt and pepper to taste.


Pour the gravy into a bowl. Carve the turkey (look up how-to videos on Youtube) and serve with the gravy and the side dishes of your choice.


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