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Sure-Fire Turkey Indoors or Out

turkey on platter

This requires a bit of planning ahead, but it's really worth it. First of all, if you are using a frozen turkey, you need to have it defrosted the day before cooking. It should sit in the brine overnight for best results. The brine gives it a nice, dark color. If you elect to smoke your turkey, as in the illustration, you can get a nice, mahogany color to bring to the table.
Technically, the turkey is not smoked, as that usually involves a long cooking time at low heat. For those who try this on the grill, you will get a nice smoked flavor to the turkey. For that matter, you could use the smoke method indoors, but it sure would really smell up the place.

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Sure-fire Turkey

1 cup/292 g salt (you can use a salt substitute for this)
1 cup/220 g brown sugar (you can use a brown sugar substitute for this)
2 gallons/7.5 liters water.
2 oranges (unpeeled), sliced
2 oranges (unpeeled) quartered
2 lemons (unpeeled), sliced
6 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary
10-to-12 pound/4.5-5.44 kg whole turkey, cleaned, giblets removed (discard or save for stock or gravy) – if frozen, make certain it is defrosted.
2 cloves of garlic
½ cup/120 ml olive oil (probably more)

If your turkey is bigger and you need more brine, the formula is ½ cup/146 g salt and ½ cup/110 g brown sugar for every gallon of water. You may also choose to use a packaged brine mix rather than making your own.

To make the brining solution, dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 gallons of water in a non-reactive container. Add the sliced oranges, lemons, thyme and rosemary.
Place the turkey in a in a non-reactive container (such as a clean bucket or a large stockpot, or an ice chest) big enough to hold the turkey submerged in brine. Pour the brine into the container until turkey is covered. Marinate, refrigerated or in a cold area, at least 4 hours, or overnight. It’s best overnight. Do not set it out where brine might freeze or animals can get to it!

Preheat oven (or grill) to 500°F/260°C.

Remove turkey from brine. Place it on a rack in a low roasting pan and pat dry. Spread the oil over the entire bird, inside and out. Place the quartered oranges in the cavity.

Oven – Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500°F/260°C. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350°F/177°C. Cook until internal temperature is 165°F/74°C. Expect a total roasting time of 2 -2 ½ hours. Let turkey rest, loosely covered, for 20-30 minutes before carving.

Grill – If you want to smoke the turkey outdoors quickly, use a covered grill. If using charcoal or wood, build the fire on just one side of the grill. Wrap a handful or two of wood flavoring chips in aluminum foil and poke holes in the foil. Place this on the grill directly over the heat source. Photos of the setup

Place the roasting pan* with the bird on the side of the grill without the fire. Cook for 30 minutes at 500°F/260°C. Then, open the grill to allow heat to escape. Add fuel to maintain 350°F/177°C and replenish wood chips as needed. Check at least every 30 minutes, best to start at every 15 minutes.

Cook until internal temperature is 165°F/74°C. Expect a total roasting time of 2 ½ - 3 hours (due to fluctuations in temperature that usually go along with the grill). Let turkey rest, loosely covered, for 20-30 minutes before carving.

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*My brother Ken says, if you want to avoid the chore of scrubbing the smoke off of a roasting pan, use a disposable aluminum one. In which case, mother suggests you don't use a metal rack, which would punch holes in the foil. Instead, you place large carrots on the bottom of the pan, laying the carrots side-by-side and alternating top and bottom. Place the bird on the carrots.

If you plan to boil the carcass for stock and soup (always a good idea) you can throw the carrots into the stock pot. If not, throw them out after cooking.

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