Classic Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
When I think of the classic Thanksgiving turkey I have the image of the Norman Rockwell painting in mind. Grandma setting the big ole bird on the table with Grandpa waiting right behind her to carve it up. Everyone at the table is eagerly watching and anticipating a juicy, perfectly cooked bird. That’s the turkey that everyone knows and it’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to cook with my spin on it of course.WHAT MALCOM USED IN THIS RECIPE:
- Meat Bags
- Malcom’s Bird Brine
- Coleman Water Cooler
- Killer Hogs AP Seasoning
- Plaster Season Shaker
- Chicken Rack
- Red Handle 12″ Slicer
When I think of the classic Thanksgiving turkey I have the image of the Norman Rockwell painting in mind. That’s the turkey that everyone knows and it’s exactly what I’m going to show you how to cook… with my spin on it of course.
- Completely thaw the turkey in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, remove the turkey from packaging discarding the neck and giblets (save those for stock or other uses). Place the turkey in a Meat Bag or other large container. Pour in the bottle of Bird Brine and add the water. Remove as much air as possible and close the bag. It helps to place the bag into a large container to keep the bird submerged and catch any accidental spills.
- Place the brine container in the refrigerate or into a cooler with ice for 48 hours. Make sure the turkey stays submerged and cold the entire time.
- Remove the turkey from the brine solution and rinse gently. Place the turkey on a raised cooling rack over a sheet pan and pat the outside dry with paper towel. Place the turkey back in the refrigerator for 1 hours minimum to dry the skin.
- Stuff the cavity with the celery, garlic cloves and onions. Tie the legs together with butcher twine and apply vegetable oil the the skin with a basting brush.
- Mix the Killer Hogs AP seasoning and poultry seasoning together in a dredge shaker and apply a good coat to the outer surface of the turkey.
- Prepare Traeger Pellet Grill or other smoker/grill for indirect cooking at 325 using a mild pellet such as Apple or Maple for light smoke flavor.
- Place the turkey on the smoker and baste with melted butter every 45 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into the breast to monitor internal temperature.
- Remove the turkey from the pit once it hits 165°F in the thickest part of the breast
- Rest the turkey for 15-20 minutes before carving.
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For this recipe I start with a 48 hour brine on the turkey. A brine is the best way to get moisture and flavor deep down into the meat. Before you brine the turkey make sure you give yourself plenty of time to allow it to thaw properly. It takes 3-4 days for a whole turkey to thaw in the refrigerator plus the 48 hours for brining, so you need to plan it out.
To brine this big 16lb turkey, I used my brand new Malcom’s Bird Brine. I placed the turkey in one of my Meat Bags (oversized ziptop bag) and poured the bottle of bird brine around the bird. Next about 2 gallons of water went in to submerge the turkey. Here’s a pro tip: Place the bag inside another large container to catch any spillage and help keep the turkey down in the brine.
Place the container in the refrigerator for 48 hours. You can also store it in a large cooler with plenty of ice to keep it cold. After the soak, remove the bird from the meat bag and let it drain. Rinse the outside with cool water and place the turkey on a wire cooling rack (I used a Chicken Rack) over a sheet pan. Use paper towel to dry the skin and absorb any moisture in the cavity. I also set the turkey back in the refrigerator for an hour to air dry.
Now it’s finally time to cook this bird. First I stuff the turkey with aromatics. Celery, Onion, Garlic, and fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) go in the cavity and the legs are tied with butcher twine to keep everything inside. Then the skin gets basted with vegetable oil. The oil helps the seasonings sticks and it also creates a nice brown, crispy skin. To season the classic turkey I used some of my Killer Hogs AP Seasoning combined with ground poultry seasoning. It’s a simple seasoning but it has a ton of flavor.
The classic turkey was always cooked in the oven, but you know I’m not doing that. I fired up my Traeger Timberline 850 for this cook set for 325°F. I also filled the Traeger with apple pellets for just a hint of smoke flavor. To make moving the turkey on and off the grill I set it on a half size cooling rack (chicken rack). This keeps me from touching the skin while moving it and makes it really easy to get off the grill once it’s done. As soon as the Traeger was up to temp the turkey went on the pit.
Every 45 minutes I basted the skin with melted butter and about 1 1/2 hours in I started monitoring the internal temperature with a meat probe. Turkey needs to reach a minimum of 165°F in the thickest part of the breast and 175°F in the thickest part of the thigh. This 16lb bird took 3.5 hours to cook completely. At this point I removed it from the Traeger and let it rest on the cutting board for 15-20 minutes. It’s hard to let a bird that pretty just set there without pulling off a piece but I managed to hold myself in check.
At this point all that’s left is to carve the turkey and serve. I usually don’t do this right at the table like ole Norman, but if you want everyone to wait with anticipation feel free to bring it out on a platter and dive right in!!
Here’s to wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!