When you talk to Ryan Ford about cooking a turkey, he makes it seem like it’s a really simple endeavor – easy to pull off and, in fact, hard to screw up. We were in need of some of this confidence, so we sought out the advice of this turkey master. As owner of The Organic Butcher in Charlottesville (and husband to Scout co-founder Christy Ford), we knew he would deliver some good tips, and after he gave us his pearls of wisdom, we felt much more reassured about our turkey tactics.
• Brine the Turkey Overnight. For the most flavorful meat possible, you have to brine your bird. The perfect, simple brine: Kosher salt and water – 1 cup Kosher salt for 1 gallon of water. Take hot water, add salt (to dissolve), then add more cold. Some people add sugar and herbs, but Ryan doesn’t think that makes a ton of difference. The night before, put the ingredients in a brining bag, then store overnight in an ice-filled cooler (not the fridge, which is probably already filled to capacity).
• Flipping the Bird. One of the most important things you should do to ensure optimal juiciness is “flip the bird” an hour into the cooking process. Start cooking the turkey breast-side down, and after it’s been cooking for about an hour, flip it. This is easier said than done. Ryan advises that you take the turkey out of the oven, get oven mitts or heavy duty towels, “get in there and manhandle.” He says it can’t be done with utensils, tongs, or stabby tools – you are going to have to use your own two hands. Remember, time is of the essence – the juices will start to seep through the towel/mitts and it will be hot!
• A meat thermometer is key. “You gotta use one,” Ryan says. Just remember that meat will keep cooking when you take it out of the oven.
• To check for doneness, pull on the legs to see if they’re loose (they should be). Also, note that when you cut into the bird, the juices should run clear. Tent the bird once it’s out of the oven to keep the juices in while you wait for bird to be cool enough to carve.
• Stay calm. You really can’t go wrong if you stick to the basics outlined above.