Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Roasting Poultry

A friend asked me yesterday for a recipe regarding how I roast poultry. I treat my turkeys and chickens relatively the same way, although I do have some variations in how I actually cook them.

First I brine the birds. I stick the bird in a large stock pot, cover it with water, add half a cup of salt (most recipes call for a cup, but my husband and I find it too salty that way), and let the bird sit in the fridge for a minimum of 6-8 hours, but never more than 24 hours.

Next I drain the bird, rinse it and remove the giblets. I stuff the bird with red onion and grapefruit wedges. A turkey can hold about half a grapefruit and half an onion, whereas a chicken can hold a quarter of each. I rub olive oil on the skin of each and season with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.

Now here is where I begin to treat the birds differently. Since I only cook turkey once a year, I massage an entire stick of room temperature butter under the skin. Since I roast on average two chickens a month, I eliminate this step in the name of fat and calories. I do have to admit though that omitting the butter does make a huge difference in flavor, but the chicken is still very good without it.

When it comes to cooking the turkey, I use either a roaster or the oven, preheating either to 500 and cooking the bird for 30-45 minutes, then turning down the heat to 350 and cooking the bird until it is done. Important note is do not open the oven door until you are ready to check the bird at the end of the cooking time. Patience, little grasshopper.

For the chicken, I use my crock pot. My husband and I do not eat the skin, and cooking in the crock pot does not brown the skin, so if you like to eat the skin, I would recommend cooking in the oven (at 325 for 45 to 60 minutes if thawed). Now, for cooking in the crock pot, the meat comes out so juicy and tender it falls right off the bone and is perfect for deboning and shredding the meat to use in other dishes. I crumple up 4 pieces of aluminum foil and place in the center of the crock pot then place the bird breast side down on top of the foil. I cook on high for 4 to 6 hours if thawed, and a minimum of 6 hours if frozen. If I'm lazy and don't feel like brining and thawing the bird first to stuff, then I rinse and toss in the crockpot frozen, it just doesn't have quite as much flavor as a specially pampered bird. You'll see the bird coming apart through the lid when it's done.

After removing the birds, carving the meat or deboning, I save the drippings for making gravy or stock. I simply place in a mason jar, let cool and put in the freezer until I am ready to use. 

**A tip for anyone who doesn't care about the skin or wants to ensure juicy breast meat is to cook either bird breast side down.

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