There's no brining, no overnight seasoning, no stuffing, no trussing here, in a technique that might produce the moistest, most evenly cooked turkey you've ever had. The bird is cooked -- steamed -- under layers of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. What you won't end up with is the crisp, browned skin that, for some people, is a temptation to be avoided.
Because the wrap is completely covered by the foil and stays wet due to the vapor/steam from the water in the pan and the bird itself, it does not come close to a melting point. It does contact the skin, but modern plastic wraps do not leach chemicals at low-heat temperatures, and you can discard the skin after cooking.
If you are worried about using the wrap, professional food-service-grade film may be used. Or use a plastic bag designed for oven roasting; see the VARIATION below.
- 16-pound turkey, preferably free-range, giblets removed
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 to 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 5 large or 6 ribs celery (optional; see VARIATION)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have a large piece (or two) of plastic wrap and a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil at hand. Place a low rack inside a roasting pan just large enough to hold the turkey.
Combine the water and the 1 tablespoon of salt in a liquid measuring cup, stirring until the salt has dissolved. Pour into the roasting pan.
Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry. Make sure there are no packets inside the bird. Season the cavity with the 2 teaspoons of salt and the pepper (to taste).
Place the turkey in the roasting pan, breast side down. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, stretching or tucking it over the edge of the pan. Cover with the aluminum foil in the same manner, making sure the wrap is completely covered by the foil, especially where it touches the pan. Roast for about 3 1/2 hours, then check the internal temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the dark meat, away from the bone. It's done at 165 degrees. The skin will have darkened a bit but will not be browned.
Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes. Discard the plastic wrap. Remove whatever skin you can reach, then invert the bird onto a cutting board and remove the remaining skin; discard it, or reserve it on a baking sheet to roast as cracklings.
If serving right away, carve the turkey and arrange the meat on a platter. Otherwise, tent it loosely, using the same foil you used in the oven, until ready to serve. The meat will stay warm for more than an hour. Reserve the cooking liquid for gravy, if desired; see the related recipe.
VARIATION: Pour the cup of salted water into a large oven-roasting bag, then seat the bag inside the roasting pan. Place a low rack in the bag, or create a "raft" of 5 or 6 celery ribs (a medium-length bamboo skewer can help hold them together) to act as a platform for the turkey. Place the bird on the rack or celery, breast side down. Seal the bag (no need to use the flour mentioned in the oven-bag package directions), then cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil before roasting. This technique steams the bird more than the method above.
From Lisa King of Freedom Farms in Butler, Pa.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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