Chefs’ Picks: Turkey

Though bird is the word of the season, many a Thanksgiving turkey underwhelms. Find out chefs’ favorite preparations for T-Day poultry to ensure your bird is far from bland.
BAREFOOT_CONTESSA_PERFECT_ROAST_TURKEY_H_.jpg

BAREFOOT_CONTESSA_PERFECT_ROAST_TURKEY_H_.jpg

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

The national day of stuffing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, Thanksgiving is one of the few meals in which the main dish is often upstaged by the sides. Though bird is the word of the season, many a Thanksgiving turkey tends to underwhelm. Don’t let that be the case this year. Several chefs offer their favorite preparations for T-Day poultry to ensure your bird is far from bland.

Superbly Seasoned

As the owners of a chainlet of fried chicken joints in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and London, the siblings behind Blue Ribbon Restaurants know a thing or two about poultry. Owners Bruce and Eric Bromberg use Blue Ribbon's proprietary blend of kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried thyme as a seasoning, and they separate the birds into pieces. “When cooking, remove the legs and thighs from the breast and cook them separately, so white and dark cuts both come out perfectly,” they say.

For another simply seasoned spin on the Thanksgiving turkey, try Ina Garten’s take.

Photo by: Heather Ramsdell ©Food Network 2016

Heather Ramsdell, Food Network 2016

A Creative Confit

Much like the Bromberg brothers, Executive Chef Tyler Kinnett of Harvest in Cambridge, Mass., also butchers the turkey into bits to achieve the best result. At the restaurant, he cooks the breast sous vide, then sears it in a pan. Doing so creates a crisp texture on the outside while locking in juiciness, Kinnett explains. “This process allows for [the] breast to retain moisture and results in a super-juicy breast.” The chef likes to confit the legs separately with some thyme and garlic. Once the legs cool, he removes the meat from the bone and mixes it into stuffing with the fat reserved from the confit. “It adds an amazing flavor to the stuffing, and all the guests in the restaurant love it,” Kinnett says.

Get creative in your own kitchen with this leg and wing confit recipe from Food Network Kitchen.

Fantastically Fried

Executive Chef Chris Miracolo of S3 in Fort Lauderdale likes to relax on Thanksgiving — and sleep in. His solution: oil. He likes to brine his birds for three days in a combination of salt, smashed garlic cloves, herbs and molasses mixed together in a big cooler with ice water. On Thanksgiving Day, Miracolo fills a big outdoor candy stove halfway with oil, then fries his turkey. “You cannot beat the crispiness of the skin, the moisture inside the meat, and the fact that you can sleep in and not start cooking a turkey at 5 a.m.,” says Miracolo. A 20-pound turkey takes less than an hour to cook. It may seem easy as pie to make, but be careful of displacement. Use a harness to lower the turkey into the hot oil slowly, so the liquid gently fills the cavity. “Otherwise, you’ll have an explosion,” Miracolo says.

Fry up your own Thanksgiving bird with Valerie Bertinelli’s recipe.

ALEX_G_THANKSGIVING_WHOLE_TURKEY_BRINE__H.jpg

ALEX_G_THANKSGIVING_WHOLE_TURKEY_BRINE__H.jpg

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Beautifully Brined

Another fan of a nice, long brine is Executive Chef Chris Coleman of Stoke in Charlotte, N.C. He soaks a 12- to 16-pound bird for two days in a bath of salt, brown sugar, bay leaves, juniper, thyme, black pepper and orange. He prefers to cook his turkey in the oven, starting low at 375 degrees F for an hour and a half, before cranking the temperature to 450 degrees for the last 30 minutes. “That way it cooks through without drying out,” says Coleman. “If you cook just low and slow, the breast dries out before [the] thighs cook through.” Little goes to waste in Coleman’s kitchen, as he uses the giblets, neck and heart to make a turkey gravy to pair with the bird.

Step up your bird game with this brine recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli.

World's Simplest Thanksgiving Turkey

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

A Buttery Bird

“I empower you to roast a turkey!” says Executive Chef-Owner Michael Lomonaco of Porter House Bar and Grill in New York City. Unlike Coleman and Miracolo, however, Lomonaco forgoes the traditional brining process. Before putting his bird in the oven, the chef washes it in cold, salted water for a couple of minutes, which he describes as “flash brining it.” Lomonaco then thoroughly dries the turkey and seasons the cavity with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. To retain moisture, Lomonaco separates the skin from the breast meat, starting from the bottom of the carcass and filling the void with a blend of sweet butter, herbs, salt and pepper. “Season the turkey well since a well-seasoned bird will taste best, so apply some of that butter to the top of the skin," Lomonaco says. “Use a stick or two of butter.”

For another no-brine option, try this can’t-miss recipe from Food Network Kitchen.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Chefs' Picks: Thanksgiving Pie

We asked pastry chefs across the country to share recipes for the Thanksgiving pies they're baking for their own holiday table.

Chefs' Picks: Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

A few chefs from across the country share their favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, and the picks include a jazzed-up gravy and two ways to update seasonal sweet potatoes.

Chefs’ Picks: Top Holiday Bottles

If you want to buy a few celebratory holiday wines, dazzle your guests with these chefs’ go-to bottles to serve, gift and brighten spirits.

Chefs’ Picks: Secret Indulgences

Even chefs have special comfort foods that are kind of unhealthy and possibly somewhat embarrassing for them to admit they eat. Find out which secret indulgences some chefs can’t resist.

Chefs’ Picks: Holiday Gifts

Now that holiday shopping is in full swing, we asked chefs across the country to tell us what foodcentric gifts they love to give and get.

Chefs' Picks: Holiday Traditions

Whether they’re behind the stove or for once letting someone else tie on an apron, these chefs (and their families) know how to put the “eatings” in "season’s greetings."

Chefs’ Picks: St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day provides the perfect excuse for everyone (whether actually Irish or not) to drink, eat and be merry. Get into the spirit with these dishes.

Chefs’ Picks: Mother’s Day

There’s no better time to give mom time off from cooking than Mother’s Day. Here are some mom-inspired creations that chefs are dishing up to celebrate the occasion.

Chefs’ Picks: Big-Game Snacks

We spoke to chefs across the country about recipes from their own party playbooks that always please the crowd.

Chefs’ Picks: Mother’s Day Recipes

Most everyone wants to show Mom love on her special day. For those who plan to prepare homemade gifts, we polled a few chefs around the country on what they cook to make their moms feel treasured on Mother’s Day.