Gobble gobble! One of the smartest things we did last year was ask a few of our favorite Valley chefs for their advice on making the most stellar Thanksgiving turkey. To help you with creating this year’s Turkey Day feast, here are a few of those tasty tidbits.
What is your No. 1 rule when it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey?
“Everyone traditionally throws the whole turkey in the oven, but boning out the turkey makes all the difference. When you bone it out into different parts, it’s so much more effective. From there, rolling it in fresh sage (and, if you prefer, bacon) gives it good flavor. Wrap that in aluminum foil, roast at 375 degrees for 50 minutes and you have a tasty turkey. Also, if you can, roast all the bones and parts for a delicious stock which makes a perfect turkey gravy.” —Chef Michael DeMaria of Heirloom
““Low and slow, that is the tempo.” —Chef Beau MacMillan of elements at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa
“My No. 1 tip for turkey is to brine it. Too many people don’t plan ahead and take the time for this really simple step. Add one cup of light brown sugar and one cup of kosher salt to 1.5 gallons of warm H2O and cover the bird overnight.” —Chef Aaron May of Iruña and Mabel’s on Main
“The only must-do when it comes to the annual festive bird cook-a-thon is to add fat and flavor in between the breast and the skin. This is best done by first putting on gloves, then placing your fingers under the skin near the bottom of the breasts. You can then slowly spread your fingers and move them back and forth while pushing forward until all the skin is loose over the breast. I like to chop up room-temperature butter, fresh herbs, salt, pepper and garlic to spread onto the breast. This will help with the flavor and to keep the breast from getting too dry. Experiment earlier in the year with the flavor combinations on a roast chicken.” —Chef Justin Beckett of Beckett’s Table
“Don’t overcook it. When it’s about two-thirds cooked, I cut between the breast and legs and spread them open so the thighs get done faster and the breast doesn’t overcook and become dry.” —Chef Christopher Gross of Christopher’s Restaurant and Crush Lounge
“My No. 1 tip for turkey is to brine it before cooking; second would be to sous-vide it.” —Chef Kevin Binkley of Binkley’s
“Put seasoned poultry butter underneath the skin of the turkey.” —Chef Eddie Matney of Eddie’s House
“Buy a fresh turkey in the 14- to 15-pound range. Large turkeys take longer to cook so there is more chance for the meat to dry out. If feeding a large crowd, buy two turkeys; they will be easier to cook and handle than one large turkey. You can also have one turkey on display while you slice the first one. Brining the turkey is a great way to seal in the flavors and keep the meat moist. Do not cook with the stuffing inside; it will take longer to cook to make sure the stuffing is done and, therefore, more chance for the meat to become dry. Instead, put fresh apples, sweet vermouth and herbs like sage and basil in the cavity to flavor the turkey.” —Chef Vincent Guerithault of Vincent on Camelback
“I would strongly recommend trying to brine your turkey before it’s time to cook it.” —Chef Greg LaPrad of Quiessence