Roast Turkey

Many years ago when Mr. Batch and I started dating, we happened to catch an episode of America’s Test Kitchen on PBS, during which they outlined their method for a relatively easy, guaranteed-juicy, perfectly seasoned turkey:

They cover the turkey in SALT PORK (music to my Southern ears!), which seasons the turkey as it bastes it, without imparting the smoky flavor of bacon.  Their recipe is here: Old Fashioned Roast Turkey. I have always roasted turkeys this way since seeing that episode, with only slight variations.

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Ingredients needed: cheesecloth soaked in water, salt pork, turkey, foil. I opted to stuff the turkey cavity with sage from the Lovely Lisa’s garden.

1 hour before you plan to start cooking turkey, remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature, to allow for move even cooking.

  • 1 package cheesecloth
  • 4 cups cold water

Remove cheesecloth from package and fold into an 18″ square. Place cheesecloth in large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak at least 1 hour.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.

  • 1 turkey, 12 to 14 pounds. Preferably a local, fresh turkey. But if using a frozen one, select one that has not been brined.

Tuck turkey wings behind back, and while you have the turkey turned over with breast-side down, season the back of the turkey with salt and pepper.

Turn turkey breast-side up and place in V-rack inside roasting pan. Prick skin of breast, legs & wings all over with fork, to pierce through skin into the flesh beneath the skin.

  • 1 pound salt pork, cut into 1/4″ thick slices

Cover breast, legs & wings with salt pork:

(optional) If you happen to have some fresh sage, rosemary and/or thyme, stuff the cavity of the turkey with those.

Top the salt-pork-covered-turkey with the soaked cheesecloth, and pour the remaining water from the soaking bowl into the roasting pan. Cover the cheesecloth with foil:

Roast turkey until temperature at thickest part of thigh (not next to the bone) registers 165 degrees F, approximately 13 minutes per pound if using a fresh turkey / 15 minutes per pound if previously frozen and thawed. A 14 pound natural, fresh turkey will require about three hours of cooking time.

30 minutes before the end of the suggested cooking time, remove foil, cheesecloth and salt pork and discard. Allow turkey to roast 30 more minutes, uncovered, so that skin can brown just a bit.

*This type of turkey will not be a bronzed-crispy-skinned “presentation” turkey to carve at the table. What you’re trading in bronzed crispy skin, is tender, juicy, amazingly flavored turkey meat — even the white meat!  You will want to carve this in the kitchen and present platters of sliced meat.

Once turkey is finished cooking, allow to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature, for juices to reabsorb into the meat. Then carve and enjoy!

For all of you gravy lovers out there: I’m not a gravy fan — I like my turkey unadorned.  But if you do, follow this link for gravy-making instructions: Old Fashioned Roast Turkey .  I have always thought the drippings from this method were too salty to make gravy, so I have used store-bought gravy (Trader Joe’s has a very good boxed version … hey, don’t judge!) … or have made gravy with a cooked butter-flour mixture (roux) and loosened that with homemade (or store-bought) chicken /turkey broth.

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Platter of dark turkey meat in upper center of picture; platter of white meat in center of picture

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