As much as I love the side dishes, turkey is undoubtedly the star of the Thanksgiving table. The pièce de résistance that makes everyone "ooh" and "ahh" deserves a bit of pampering and prepping to look its holiday best. Here are my simple tricks that always result in a beautifully bronzed bird with moist, juicy meat. And if your bird is a little less than glamorous looking (too much wine, noisy siblings, warring grandmothers...), there's plenty that the BeFunky Photo Editor can do to lend a helping hand.
Brine baby, brine:
Brining can be done two ways. Wet or dry. Neither method is difficult and both result in a moist bird with flavor all the way to the bone. For wet brining, you soak your turkey in a salt/sugar/spice solution for 12-24 hours. I switch up the flavorings, but use either Alton Brown or Ree Drummond's recipes as a loose guideline to get the ratios correct. Dry brining is something I learned from America's Test Kitchen and it's a really neat method with lots of science behind the results—unfortunately you need a subscription to view their recipe, so here is a link to a Martha Stewart video on dry brining.
Butter, butter, butter:
Make a flavorful herb butter by mixing your favorite thanksgiving herbs with some room temperature butter. Then gently run your fingers under the skin of your turkey and squish as much butter as you can under the skin. I like to do this in advance, put the bird back in the fridge to let the butter harden. This gives it more time to melt and baste the meat once it goes in the oven. And speaking of basting, on to my next tip.
I like to place celery, carrots, onions, garlic, and herbs in the bottom of my roasting pan, then a mixture of white wine and chicken or turkey broth. The roasting rack with the turkey goes on top and as it roasts, the turkey drippings go into the pan, leaving you with the beginning of the best gravy ever. You should try and avoid putting stuffing in your bird as this will only elongate the cooking time—which can contribute to your bird drying out in the heat.
To baste or not to baste... that is the question. Some think that basting prevents you from getting crispy skin, but in my opinion, turkey skin never gets super crisp, so I'm a fan of basting. Every 45 minutes or so using a baster or a ladle, baste your turkey with the juices in the roasting pan.
After everything your turkey has been through, give him a break before going at him with a carving knife. Let him rest for at least 30 minutes, but even up to 45 or an hour if you have a really big bird. This will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and you will have the juiciest turkey ever. The resting period is a great time to pull together all those scrumptious side dishes and get everyone to the table, too!
And of course, you'll have plenty of time to snap a few pictures to show off on your feeds. If your turkey needs a little extra help or your lighting isn't great, never fear, BeFunky's Photo Editor is here! Brighten, contrast, sharpen, and share all of your Thanksgiving food photos with a few quick tips on food photography:
- Brightness: No one likes a dull bird. Photos that have their brightness slightly enhanced tend to perform better all across the board, so be sure to adjust the lighting to capture your meal in all its shiny, well-lit glory.
- Contrast: Adjust your contrast to fix any photos that look a little washed out with the Levels tool.
- Sharpen: Don’t move your slider in the Photo Editor all the way over to the right or your photo will look grainy and artificial. Just like with the brightness and contrast, you'll want to use your instincts here. Once you see your photo coming into sharper focus, you'll begin to notice details coming out of the shot. Once you see that, and it looks natural, STOP. You can also utilize the “Smart Sharpen” feature which is exactly what it sounds like–an auto sharpen tool that takes the guess work out for you.
Photograph your bird:
Top down photography is all the rage these days, so why not snap up a photo of your beauty from above? Here's our advice on how to capture the perfect flat lay shot.