Our November cover star Bridget Moynahan says one of the perks of her hit CBS show Blue Bloods is swapping recipes with her co-stars, Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg. Talking to Serendipity, Moynahan shares her own tips for roasting the perfect Thanksgiving turkey from her new book The Blue Bloods Cookbook (hint: pick a smaller bird and choose fresh over frozen):
Cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey starts with buying the right bird. That starts with size. Most cooks overestimate the amount of turkey they need—even considering leftovers. Figure 1 pound for every person at the table, plus 5 pounds extra (for the parts that won’t be eaten, and for sandwiches later). Smaller turkeys are often the better choice. A turkey under 20 pounds is most likely a hen. Larger tom turkeys tend to be more muscular, which translates to tougher, often drier meat.
Most people buy a frozen turkey, although paying a bit more for a fresh turkey makes everything easier, because you don’t have to thaw the bird. If you’ve opted for frozen, start defrosting the turkey several days before you cook it by moving it to the refrigerator. It will take about 24 hours for every 5 pounds. You can speed up the process, if need be, by thawing the birdin a large container full of cold water, changing the water every half hour. In either case, carefully inspect the vacuum bag around the turkey—it should be tight and sealed, with no leaks, holes, tears, bagging or air pockets.
- One turkey, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups chicken broth
- Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 20 to 30 minutes before you want to put it in the oven and remove the package of giblets from the neck. (You can reserve these for homemade gravy if you like, or for other uses as well.)
- Melt the butter and keep it warm.
- Season the turkey all over with salt and pepper. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan equipped with a rack. If your pan doesn’t have a rack, use 6 to 8 cut potato halves spaced evenly in the bottom of the pan, cut-side down (or use celery stalks or large carrots). You don’t want the bottom of the turkey cooking in its own juices. Pour the chicken broth into the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Put the turkey in the preheated oven and then lower the oven temperature to 375°F. Assume 15 minutes per pound for the cooking time, and baste the turkey every 20 to 30 minutes, ﬁrst with the juices from the roasting pan, and then with the melted butter for the last two times.
- Once the skin has browned, cover the top of the bird with aluminum foil to prevent it from charring. Remove the turkey from the oven when an instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the thigh meat registers 165°F.
- Let the bird rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. To carve, remove the wings, drumsticks, thighs and breasts. Carve the meat off the turkey for best results and arrange it on a serving platter to bring to the table. Always refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours to keep the meat food safe.