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90-Minute Roast Turkey

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You don't have to get up at 6am to make a perfectly crisp, juicy roast turkey!  With these super simple techniques, that bird is ready to hit the table in two hours or less.  To make it even easier on yourself, all of the preparation can be done in advance, including the bed of lush, bready stuffing to rest your turkey on.  

The trick to speed-roasting your turkey is to cut out the backbone.   When you butterfly the turkey (do it yourself or ask your grocer to do it for you), you expose more of the meat to the heat, requiring less time, and providing a crisp skin without drying out the breast.    To prevent filling your kitchen with smoke, the turkey is cooked over the dressing, which absorbs the drippings.  Now all of your turkey cooking woes are solved!

The following recipe is best begun two days before you plan to cook your bird to allow for optimal brining and drying time.  
 
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Step 1: Butterfly the Bird

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It's a simple technique to butterfly a bird, but when it comes to turkey, you're going to need some real elbow grease.  I knew I wanted to DIY my first time around, but next time, I'll definitely ask my grocer very sweetly to do it for me.  This works up a sweat!

All you want to do is remove the backbone and break the breast bone to the turkey lies flat.  If you want to try it yourself, follow the steps on the How to Butterfly a Turkey for more info!

Step 2: To Brine or Not To Brine

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If you have the forethought to brine your turkey, you'll be rewarded with succulent, tender meat all the way to the bone.  If you simply don't have the time, opt for a kosher turkey which is salted  during processing, or a frozen bird which has most likely been injected with a saline solution already.  

If you do opt to brine your turkey, rest assured, it's super simple.  From the most basic turkey brine recipe to super-fancy orange peel and juniper berry brines, it only takes a minute of preparation to get your bird a-brining. Here are some simple tips:
  • Use a fresh (not frozen) bird.  Frozen birds are often injected with saline solutions to make the meat juicier.
  • If you don't have a large pot, use a giant Ziplock bag (or pricier brining bag) to do the trick.
  • Prepare to brine your turkey two days before you cook it so it has time to absorb the brine, and then be dried out before roasting
I used a very simple brine recipe (1 part sugar to 2 parts salt), a giant zipper-sealed bag, and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  Since the turkey is butterflied, it's pretty easy to find room for it in an already cramped fridge!

Check out this Instructable for more on how to brine a turkey.

Step 3: The Dressing

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While your turkey is busy rearranging its protein molecules to absorb more water in its briny bath, now is a great time to prepare the dressing that will provide a soft bed for your turkey's drippings.

Choose your favorite recipe (I used this one), but don't cook your dressing just yet.  Place it in the bottom of a roasting pan that will also hold the turkey.  Cover with foil and let rest in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook the bird.  


Step 4: Drying the Turkey

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Once your turkey has been well brined (8hrs to overnight), remove it from its bath and give it a good rinsing. 

Thoroughly pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels.  

Position the bird on a greased, slotted roasting pan if you have one.  If you don't, get a rack and cover it with foil, cut some slits to allow the drippings through, and lightly grease with cooking spray.

Set in the fridge to dry overnight.   To save on room in your fridge, place right on top of the foil covered dressing pan!  

Step 5: Let's Get Cooking!

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Lower the rack in your oven to the lower middle position (to accomodate the height of your bird), and preheat to 450F (230C).

Remove the turkey and dressing from the refrigerator.

Remove the foil from the top of the dressing, and place the turkey (on the rack) back atop the dressing.  

Being careful not to tear the delicate membrane around the breast, use your hands release the skin on either side of the breastbone to form two pockets.  Rub about 2 tablespoons butter under the released skin.  Brush the outside of the turkey with 1-2 tablespoons melted butter, mixed with your favorite fresh herbs. I chose thyme and sage. 

Place the turkey atop the dressing in the oven and roast until the turkey's skin is crisp and deep brown, 80 to 100 minutes, rotating pan from front to back after 40 minutes.

You want an instant-read thermometer to read 165F (74C) when inserted in the thickest part of the breast and 175F (80C) in the thickest part of the thigh.  

Step 6: Rest

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Transfer the rack with the turkey to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, place the roasting pan with the dressing back in the oven, and bake until golden brown, about 10 more minutes.

Let the dressing cool for 5 minutes, then spoon into bowl or onto turkey serving platter. Carve your turkey and serve!
oilitright2 years ago
I do more or less the same thing when I cook a chicken in one of those round convection ovens. My favorite way to cook a turkey of around 14-16 pounds is in an Orion cooker (google it) the Orion is so fast you can do 2 turkeys or a turkey and a ham even if you sleep to noon and still be done before dinner time.
GinaT2 years ago
This looks awesome...do you wind up with drippings in the bottom of the pan, or are they ALL absorbed into the stuffing? Thanks!
GinaT2 years ago
Thanks for posting this..I will try this. I am wondering though, why does the turkey look discolored in the brine?
taransa2 years ago
What size bird did you start with to get the 90-ish minute cook time?
scoochmaroo (author)  taransa2 years ago
What an excellent question, and I can't believe I didn't include that information when I wrote this. I'm guessing it was in the ballpark of 10 lbs, give or take two. The most important part is to continue checking the internal temp until it reaches to appropriate levels.
Lovely, thank you so much! And yes, checking the temp is the only way to go!
chefsea2 years ago
Accuracy and ease of preparation always count, and in my book you have demonstrated this procedure perfectly. I especially like that you use a tap water brine without cooking and butterflying the bird. May I suggest combining chopped herbs with the butter that's slipped underneath the skin? Bravo!
scoochmaroo (author)  chefsea2 years ago
Goodness, thank you! You're doing much for my ego!
If i can make it, i will open a shop to sell Roast Turkey. LOL.
paganwonder3 years ago
I use sugar 2:1 salt with frozen birds (turkey, duck, capone- goose reminds me of liver so only cook it by special request of the terminally ill!!!). All have been happy with the results. I've done the 'fancy' brines but never impressed with the impact all the spices and aromatics had on the meat- minimally detectable in the skin so now I stick to the simple colloids and everyone is soooo impressed by moist poultry they ask no questions! Excellent 'ible once again- Happy Holidays!
lmnopeas3 years ago
Beautiful color on your bird! It looks nice and moist.