Oven Roasted Turkey:
The “Judy Bird” Technique

After finishing culinary school last fall, I took an internship in the test kitchen of The Los Angeles Times in the Food Section. It was there that I met senior food editor Russ Parsons who was in his third year of perfecting the “Judy Bird” technique.  I quickly learned he was referring to one of my all-time favorite chefs, superstar Judy Rogers of San Francisco’s Zuni Café.  Judy has been dry-brining chicken for years, and her famous “Roast Chicken with Bread Stuffing for Two” is worth the flight to San Francisco alone. Russ figured if it worked on chicken, it might work on turkey as well.  And was he ever right!  Simply put, this makes the most delicious turkey I’ve ever had.  And it’s so easy, you’ll think you’ve left out a step or two.

In a nutshell:  3 days before the big event, you rub salt all over the bird- about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for every 5 pounds.  I like to add some crushed herbs and pepper as well.  Last year, I used crushed fresh thyme and ground black pepper, which came out amazing! Crushed sage and pepper would also be a killer combo.  Seal up the turkey in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 3 days, removing it from the bag for the last 8 hours to let it dry out.  Take the turkey out of the bag, place it on a roaster and you’re ready to go!

The Judy Bird

Adapted from Russ Parson’s recipe in The Los Angeles Times.

Total time:

Give or take 3 hours (depending on your oven and the size of your bird) plus 3 days brining

Servings: 11 to 15

Note: This is more a technique than a recipe. It makes a bird that has concentrated turkey flavor and fine, firm flesh and that’s delicious as is. But feel free to add your own herbs and spices to the salt rub.  Remember that you should salt the turkey by Monday night at the latest to have it at its best by Thursday, though briefer salting times will work too.

Ingredients:

1 (12- to 16-pound) turkey
Kosher salt or any of the seasoned salts

  1. Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it. Measure 1 tablespoon of kosher salt or the appropriate amount of a seasoned salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you’d have 3 tablespoons kosher salt).
  2. Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Place the turkey on its back and salt the breasts, concentrating the salt in the center, where the meat is thickest. You’ll probably use a little more than a tablespoon. It should look liberally seasoned but not over salted.
  3. Turn the turkey on one side and sprinkle the entire side with salt, concentrating on the thigh. Use a little less than a tablespoon. Flip the turkey over and do the same with the other side.
  4. Place the turkey in a 2 1/2 -gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. Place the turkey breast-side up in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, leaving it in the bag but turning it and massaging the salt into the skin every day.
  5. Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface, and the skin should be moist but not wet. Wipe the turkey dry with a paper towel, place it breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.
  6. On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  7. Place the turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan; put it in the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and roast until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone, reads 165 degrees, about 2 3/4 hours total roasting. (Note: If desired skin browning is accomplished before temperature reads 165 degrees, tent the bird loosely with foil to prevent further browning.)
  8. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a warm platter or carving board; tent loosely with foil. Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. Carve and serve.

3 Responses to Oven Roasted Turkey:
The “Judy Bird” Technique

  1. Marcy Capoferri says:

    I made my turkey this way last year, with rosemary, thyme and lemon zest added to the salt. It was the best turkey ever! And so easy. No stress cooking the turkey on Thanksgiving Day, it’s all ready to pop in the oven. Thanks, Jessica!

  2. Kimberly Field says:

    Happy Thanksgiving Jessica! Your Turkey looks Fantastic! Keep blogging, love the combo of my favorite show Y&R and my favorite hobby cooking!

  3. Ana says:

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Even though we celebrated our Thanksgiving on October 8th (hey, I’m Canadian), I’m celebrating with you Thursday. My hubby is an American at heart! This recipe sounds magnificant! Bon Appetite!

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