Now that you've seen how beautifully this turkey turned out, I can confess how much actually went wrong while cooking it. The turkey cooked in half the time I expected, while my guests were an hour late. When re-heating the turkey, I managed to forget it was in the oven. I neglected to remove the giblets. And so on.
But in spite of all my mess-ups, this was still one of the best turkeys I've ever eaten. If it's a fail-safe Thanksgiving that you're after, this turkey from Williams-Sonoma seems like a good bet.
These organic, free-range turkeys are shipped overnight direct from Willie Bird Turkeys in Sonoma County, California. Mine arrived in a styrofoam cooler with ice packs tucked beneath, around, and above the turkey to keep it safely cool. The turkeys are fresh (not frozen) and come pre-brined. This saves you the hassle of both thawing the turkey and brining it yourself.
I cooked this turkey plain: no spices, no special rubs or marinades, not even butter. This bird was all on its own in there.
As you can see, it turned out beautifully. The skin browned and crisped, even without the added benefit of butter or oil. I basted it in its own juices every 45 minutes to keep the turkey moist but otherwise left it alone to do its thing. I did originally intend to baste it with some butter in the last hour, but the turkey cooked so quickly that it was done before I got the chance. Turns out, it didn't need it.
The breast meat was tender and moist with a delicate sweet flavor. In contrast, the dark meat was rich and flavorful, just as it should be. All of the meat was perfectly seasoned - neither too salty from the brine nor disappointingly bland, but just right. Even the turkey parts that I over-cooked while re-heating were still amazingly tender. The skin probably would have gotten even more crispy if I'd brushed it with butter, but it turned out finger-licking good even so.
As I mentioned in the intro, the biggest surprise with this turkey was that it cooked so fast. I followed the "13 minute for every pound" rule given by Williams-Sonoma and figured my 16-pound turkey would take about four hours. When I checked the temperature after about 2 1/2 hours, it was already creeping up to 170°. I later found out that brined turkeys tend to cook a little more quickly than non-brined turkeys. I also didn't stuff the turkey or truss its legs, which likely contributed to its faster cooking. If you buy one of these turkeys, just be aware that the cooking time may be different than Williams-Sonoma's instructions and start checking the turkey temperature early on.
Another heads up: if you can't find the giblets in the body cavity, check the neck area. I found the neck inside the body and assumed that was all I got for giblets. It wasn't until I was carving the turkey that I discovered the little bag of giblets tucked into the neck cavity. Whoops!
All in all, this was some darn good turkey. I probably did everything a person could do to mess it up, and the turkey still turned out moist, tender, and flavorful. These are expensive turkeys, no way around it; but if you're looking for an organic, free-range turkey, I think these Willie Birds are a good choice. You can order through the end of the day tomorrow (Friday, November 18) for delivery by Thanksgiving, or through December for delivery by Christmas.
• Find it: Willie Bird Fresh Organic Turkey from Williams-Sonoma, $85-$175 depending on size
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.