No doubt most of the U.S. is tired of turkey by now — I’ve had turkey at least once a day since Thursday and confess to being well over it — but I want to document how I cooked our family turkey this year because it was fantastic, and I want to remember to cook it exactly this way from now on.
- My mother’s kitchen
- Heavyweight roasting pan with matching roasting rack
- Convection oven (Very important!)
- Electronic cooking thermometer
- Assistant chef Katy
- Lots of paper towels
- One 20-pound turkey (Can be purchased at any grocery store — fancy free-range organic non-GM turkey not required. Note that though the turkey is huge it is still labelled “young,” but don’t think too hard about the conditions that create this seeming paradox. Do not argue that it’s too large — there’s no such thing as too many leftovers.)
- Olive oil
- One lemon
- Sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Poultry seasoning
Wake up on time but dilly-dally around the house before heading over to Mom’s. Arrive an hour after you planned.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees, turning on convection. Fret that you don’t hear the convection sound, and the little animated convection spinner on the display isn’t spinning. Relax when the temperature hits 300 and both the convection sound and spinning animation start.
Locate turkey in the fridge in the basement. It will seem thawed, but you’ll find some ice still in the main cavity, along with the chicken neck. Wash turkey well in warm running water, both to clean it and to bring it to room temperature.
Search for roasting pan. Find one nice roasting pan but no racks anywhere. Recruit Katy to help look for a roasting rack, but find none in the panty, the kitchen closet, anywhere any other pans are kept, nor the basement.
When Katy finds a different heavyweight roasting pan with rack, choose to use that. Wash out the pan and rack, dry thoroughly.
Using a lot of paper towels, dry turkey thoroughly, inside and out. Put it in the roasting pan.
Find all the roasting racks you spent 20 minutes searching for, above the stove in a cupboard that used to hold something else. Decide that the pan that’s already got the turkey in it is fine. Move on.
Complain that there were no livers or giblets in the turkey. Listen when Katy says they may be not in the cavity at the bottom but in the neck cavity. Find them there, remove, redry the turkey neck and thank Katy profusely for saving the meal.
Find an old, slightly shriveled lemon in a corner of the fridge. Wash lemon. Cut lemon into quarters and squeeze juice into a little bowl. Put remaining lemon rinds into turkey cavity.
To bowl with juice, add a few tablespoons of sea salt (Mom has about a billion kinds of sea salt in the cupboard by the stove, and any one of them will be fine. Sea salt is better than table salt because it’s nice and chunky and more fun to make into a smearable paste.) Next add a few grinds of pepper, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and about three-quarters of a teaspoon of ground poultry seasoning. Mix this up with your fingers, then smear it all over the outside of the turkey.
Realize that the oven rack isn’t low enough for the pan to fit in the oven. Using mitts, move the hot oven racks around so there’s one at the very top space and two at the two bottom spaces.
Make note of the time.
In about an hour, turn the pan around so the turkey is facing the other way (to promote even browning).
Don’t bother to baste at all. Figure you’ll check now and then in case it’s cooking too quickly, but get busy with other stuff and fail to check it at all.
Three hours after you put the turkey in, check the temperature in the thigh. If it has hit at least 180 degrees, turkey is done. Take it out, tent very loosely with foil, cook/heat/reheat other dishes for the meal.
After about a half hour, get ready to start carving.
Devour, especially the skin.