Expert Tips for Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey Talk

Thanksgiving is just a few days away.  Don’t panic.  Kitchen Chat has tips from the experts so your Thanksgiving turkey will be perfect!


Today’s show features “excerpts from the experts,” including Russ Parsons (former food editor of LA Times), Tina Ujlaki (executive food editor at Food and Wine Magazine) and Dana Cowin (editor-in-chief of Food and Wine Magazine).  These three interviews were indeed milestones in my culinary journey.  It was so wonderful to meet Russ Parsons in person at IACP in 2014 and to tour the LA Times test kitchen in February 2015.  How delightful to meet Tina Ujlaki at IACP in 2014 and to meet Dana Cowin in Connecticut and in Chicago.


“It’s the best tasting turkey ever,” Russ Parsons says about dry brined turkey.  He encourages us to consider dry brining the turkey with kosher salt.  The late Chef Judy Rodgers of the classic Zuni Cafe in San Francisco inspired him. “One of the hallmarks of Judy Rodgers’ cooking was to salt and store the proteins that came into the kitchen,” Parsons says.  Several years ago when Parsons interviewed her for a holiday cooking article, he asked Chef Judy if she had ever dry brined a turkey for the holidays.  She said, no but to let her know how it turned out. Parsons had always been a wet briner of turkey but was concerned about how “Wet brine always makes the meat excessively moist.”  Now that he dry brines the Thanksgiving turkey, the meat is “evenly seasoned all the way through.”  Parsons emphasizes that dry brining is “really really simple.”  Here’s what you do: “Sprinkle one tablespoon of salt for every 5 pounds of turkey.  Put the dry brined turkey into a large plastic bag; seal it; and refrigerate it for 3 days.  Every morning, pull the turkey out to redistribute the salt.  On the last day, take it out of the bag; pat it dry; and put it back into the refrigerator for a couple of hours to let it air dry.  Then roast it as you normally would.”  Here is a link to the Russ Parsons recipe he shared with Food52.  It’s called  “The Judy Bird.”


Tina Ujlaki, executive food editor of Food and Wine Magazine, prepares her turkey in a very basic way.  For her holiday centerpiece, Tina puts pancetta under the skin, and places onions and herbs inside the turkey to roast.  She makes gravy ahead of time.  In our interview, Tina shares a fun story about deep frying a turkey for one of her articles.  She also mentions that Food and Wine Magazine has over 185 turkey recipes in the archives.  These will be great resources for Thanksgiving and inspiration for what to do with the leftover Thanksgiving turkey!


Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food and Wine Magazine shares a brilliant tip. “If you’re worried about breast meat cooking at a different rate than the legs, then turn the turkey upside down in a bowl of ice to chill the breast meat.”  Dana also shares Chef Jonathan Waxman’s excellent advice: “You don’t have to turn the turkey in the middle of roasting to evenly cook it.  Instead, cook the turkey in the same direction, breast side down.” Check out Dana’s delightful book Mastering Your Mistakes in the Kitchen  It was so nice to meet Dana in person two times.  The first was at her book signing with Chef Jacques Pepin in Connecticut.  My husband’s Christmas present last year was to fly me to Connecticut to meet these two culinary icons.  The next time I saw Dana was in the lobby of the Lyric Opera in Chicago for the James Beard Awards.  Here is our “selfie.”

A photo of me with Dana Cowin at the James Beard Awards in Chicago

A photo of me with Dana Cowin at the James Beard Awards in Chicago


Readers and listeners of Kitchen Chat, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!  Thank you for sharing this culinary journey with me.  And always remember to take a moment, and Savor the day!



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