by Tara Pederson

For those of you who aren’t yet aware, the holidays are truly upon us.

Halloween is a mere precursor to all things traditional and highly food oriented.   November is our active attendant, and with it comes a bevy of expectations.  Grandma’s pies and Mom’s side dishes, watching parades, backyard football – whatever your family traditions may be, this one is likely to prevail.  The turkey.

Full disclosure – my family is as much focused on ham as turkey, but I find that uncommon.  Maybe you have a set preference for your bird as well. Perhaps this is your first year attempting the task. Or, perchance, you’re ready to give something new a whirl.  No matter your level or expertise, today I give you 3 ways to cook a turkey that are guaranteed to be successes!

The Recipes:

(Note, all recipes are for a 12-16 lb turkey.  Plan to cook for 13-15 minutes per pound, until the thickest part of the thigh and breast read 165 degrees F on a thermometer.  Remove neck and giblets from the cavity of the turkey before cooking.  I do not include bread or rice based stuffing, as I do not recommend cooking it inside your bird, for food safety reasons).

Basic Roast Turkey – For a 12-15 lb turkey, pat the turkey dry.  Mix together ½ cup vegetable oil, ½ stick softened butter, 1/3 cup each salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Thoroughly coat every surface of the turkey, pouring any leftovers into the cavity.  Place on a baking tray and roast at 325 degrees.  You are, as always, welcome to add in any seasonings, herbs and spices you like, but it really IS this easy, and tasty on its own.

Grilled Turkey – Bring 2 gallons of water to a simmer. Add 2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup sugar, 3 tsp garlic, 3 sprigs rosemary, 3 sprigs thyme, 1 Tbsp dried sage, and 1 tsp black pepper.  Allow salt and sugar to dissolve, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Place turkey in brine, making sure liquid fully covers it.  Brine at room temperature 1 hour. Pat turkey dry, place 1 quartered apple, onion and orange in the cavity.  Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Rub the bird with softened butter and season liberally with salt and pepper.  When the charcoal is ready on the grill, add 2 cups soaked woodchips (optional).  Split the hot coals in half and place an empty, disposable pan in the middle on the bottom of the grill. Seat the top grate, and place the turkey on it, above the pan (not the charcoal). Maintain a 350 degree temperature and replenish coals as needed. Rotate the turkey every hour for even browning.

Braised Turkey – Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. Mix together 1 stick softened butter, 2 tbsp each chopped parsley, rosemary and sage and 1 tbsp each salt and pepper.  Fill the cavity with 3 onions, quartered, and rub the entire surface with herbed butter.  Place 4 cups chicken or turkey stock in a medium sauce pan and hold on low heat.  Place roughly cut carrots and celery in the bottom of large roasting pan, and put turkey on top of vegetables. Roast in a 450 degree oven about 45 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue roasting, basting with warm stock every 20 minutes. (about 2 hours longer).

Gravy -Strain the drippings into a pan, and add 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp flour. Whisk until well incorporated and cook about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.