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A friend posted on social media the other day that the word "moist" should only be used in reference to towelettes and turkeys. I agree.

As a waiter working my way through college in Fargo, not the movie with the wood chipper, we had frequent Canadian guests. They always asked for a serviette. So I would bring them a moist towelette. They would look at the tiny package in astonishment and try to explain what they really wanted. (Even English language speaking countries can have word barriers. Trust me.) Eventually I learned moist had nothing to do with serviette. They wanted a napkin. A very dry napkin. So goes my first experience with moist towelettes. 

As an at home dad it became immediately evident that holiday cooking was my job. Trophy Wife does much of the baking. Everybody said that the Thanksgiving turkey must be moist. I was a bit dubious. After all, isn't that why we have gravy? Apparently not. So I went to the school of moist turkey cookery. For a few years I tried a number of different recipes finally settling in on Martha Stewart's. Now, mind you, her recipe calls for numerous steps that involve cheese cloth, butter wine sauce, basting, and timing. It was like a corporate flow chart that someone had devised to be cruel to employees. The turkey was decent, but I was exhausted by the time dinner came around.

So I went in search of other "moist" turkey recipes. One day, I stumbled on an article in the Los Angeles Times about the best turkey ever. It was simple called: The Judy Bird. It was named after Chef Judy Rodgers, a friend of Food Editor Russ Parsons. You can read more about it here. They had done a side by side test of three methodologies and it was unanimous that The Judy Bird was hands down the best. I have been making this turkey ever since I found that article and I'll never go back to Stewart's cruel flow chart of moistness.

This year the mother-in-law is coming for Thanksgiving. I'm renaming it the Rachael Bird. Do you think I'll get brownie points? 

The Judy (ahem Rachael) Bird

Ingredients
  • 15 pound organic turkey (Just get it at Costco!)
  • 1 tablespoon regular salt
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon  Hawaiian Black Salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon Himalayan Pink Salt
  • (Or just use whatever salt you have. Ratio is 1 tablespoon for each 5 pounds of bird.)

Preparation
  1. Remove the turkey from the packaging, empty the fluids in the sink, and remove the other parts from the cavities,
  2. Do not wash the turkey. This just spreads yucky stuff around your kitchen. It will all get cooked off anyway. But remember to wash your hands after every time you come in contact with the bird.
  3. Mix the salts in bowl or plate. Spread the salt over the bird especially on the breast and thighs. You'll easily use 1 tablespoon on the breasts. Make sure to lightly salt the cavities too.
  4. Place the bird in a sealed plastic bag. I use a non scented garbage bag. Press most of the air out and tie it tight. Double bag it to avoid leaks.
  5. Place the bird breast up in the refrigerator. Ideally for 2 days, but I have done it for 1 day for this size turkey and it does well. I suspect the longer time is for larger turkeys. I usually start this on Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but you could start Monday for the longer time and larger bird.
  6. After a day invert the bird placing it on its breast for the second day.
  7. The evening of the second day, I take the bird out of the plastic and place it in a shallow pan so the skin dries out. This helps create a crispy skin. If you need, you could just pat it dry with paper towels before you bake it.
  8. On Turkey day, take the bird out of the refrigerator for at least 1 hour prior to baking. Turn the oven to 425 degrees F.
  9. Place the turkey in a roasting pan breast side down for at least the first hour. Then pull it out and place the breast face up for the remaining cooking.
  10. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F until an internal thermometer reads 165 degrees F. This should take just under 3 hours.
  11. Remove from oven. Keep warm. Tent with foil and let stand for 30 minutes prior to carving.
  12. When you carve, please remove each breast fully and then carve straight down. This will give you the most moist slices. Just watch this video of Alton Brown for the best carving advice.
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I use a mixture of salts for the magical moist trick!
Servings
About 15 plus servings.

Nutrition
About 330 calories per 6 ounce serving. This really depends on the type of meat (dark or light) and how much skin you eat.
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Comments

Pamela Vincent
11/26/2013 3:49pm

Looks like a great way to do a turkey-- sort of a dry brine, But-- where did that nutritional info come from? 560 calories per serving? There are only 88 calories in 3 oz of turkey breast meat....

Reply
11/26/2013 4:12pm

Yes, it is a dry brine. The calorie count came from the Los Angeles Times article. I assume they were just dividing 15 portions out of the bird minus bones and came up with their number. That is pretty unrealistic. So I decided to do a 6 ounce portion which for most people is probably pretty accurate and include the skin. Roastsed turkey meat with skin is about 55 calories per ounce. So I edited the blog post and changed the calorie count per portion to 330.

Reply
12/03/2013 1:38pm

I just learned today that Judy Rodgers, the Chef and Cookbook Author and owner of Zuni in California, has died. She was 57 and inspired this recipe that was named after her. Thank you Ms. Rodgers for a great yearly meal for my family. Rest In Peace.
http://eater.com/archives/2013/12/03/judy-rodgers-chef-and-cookbook-author-dead-at.php

Reply
11/27/2014 9:04pm

This turned out amazing! The skin was great, and even the white meat was juicy. HIGHLY recommend it.

Reply
11/27/2014 10:16pm

Glad it turned out for you. We made two this year for a group of 13. Rave reviews from everybody again. Happy holidays!

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