How to Brine and Roast the Perfect Turkey

 This flavorful turkey brine recipe and simple roasting directions will make your Thanksgiving prep easy. 

This flavorful turkey brine recipe and simple roasting directions will make your Thanksgiving prep easy.

I was 16 the first time I roasted a bird on my own. It was intimidating. It was exhausting. It was glorious. I have made many, many turkeys since then and I have never had a flop. I credit this mostly to my mother’s wisdom in cooking the meat low and slow with plenty of aromatic vegetables.

Every time I make a turkey I feel victorious, as if I have conquered the world, or at least a very large piece of meat.  It is an exultant task I look forward to every year – not one to dread.  If you have a good recipe and a good plan you will have an amazing roasted turkey and not be stressed.

In the past I have generally cooked the turkey breast side down and then flipped it later in the morning. This year the love of my life carefully dug through the turkey bin until he found the absolute biggest turkey in the entire store. 23 pounds people, 23 pounds. . . I’m not flipping a hot 23 pound turkey.

Did I mention we are not providing this turkey for Thanksgiving?  This year I’m cooking it a full week before Thanksgiving so I can test a new method and share it with you. This gives me turkey leftovers to make all sorts of wonderful food with but in no way did I need a 23 pound bird!

In Jonathan’s defense I should mention we got one of those great deals where you buy a bunch of groceries and get a free turkey. I planned ahead and saved up some of my shopping for just this reason. I guess if you are going to get a free turkey there is no reason to limit yourself to a 16 pounder.

Why use a turkey brine? Because it protects the meat and makes it delicious! A brined turkey is harder to dry out. It is still possible to overcook it.  Heck, it could even be lit on fire, but you are going to have to try a lot harder to do it.
Some cooks recommend not brining a turkey that is already injected with a salt solution. If you generally cook with little to no salt then you should not brine an injected turkey.  I started with a basic Winco turkey that came already injected and it turned out great.

I really enjoyed this method of cooking! It’s moist inside with a crispy skin outside. I think this method of cooking is straightforward and perfect for a beginner or a veteran turkey roster. It leaves amazing stock and veggies to make a unique gravy but more on that in the next few days!

OK, remember what I said about a plan???  Here it is!  Have the plan.  Work the plan.  Eat an amazing Turkey!!!  You can do it.  If you have any questions at all leave a comment.  I would love to help you cook your best turkey ever this year.

 

The Plan Overview

Up to six days before Thanksgiving depending on the thawing method and size of bird
Thaw the turkey if it is frozen. Check out How to Safely Thaw a Turkey if you don’t know how.

Tuesday
Make the turkey brine

Wednesday
24 hours prior to putting the bird in the oven place it in the brine.
Cut up your aromatic veggies in perpetration

Thursday (Play it safe and start 1 hour early! It may save your bacon.)
Prep turkey for oven, about 30 minutes
Plan on 10 minutes / pound for the 1st stage of cooking.
During stage two the turkey needs to be basted every 15-20 minutes for about 1-2 hours depending on turkey size
Let the turkey rest 30 minutes before carving

How much turkey should you buy???  1 pound of turkey for each person you want to serve.  Of course we always make extra for all the yummy leftover dishes I make. 

What goes great with turkey?  Gravy!  My mom’s Roasted Veggie Turkey Gravy uses the veggies from cooking the turkey and is always a hit!

RoastedVegetableTurkeyGravy

This recipe is participating in Weekend Potluck!

This flavorful turkey brine recipe and simple roasting directions will make your Thanksgiving prep easy.

How to Brine and Roast the Perfect Turkey
 
This flavorful brine recipe and simple roasting directions will make your Thanksgiving prep easy. Check out the Turkey Prep and Roasting Time Plan I included to get you through the turkey roasting process without stress or frustration. Everything you need to know for an amazing turkey, all in one place.
Ingredients
To Make The Turkey Brine: 15 Minutes
  • 48 oz apple juice any kind is fine
  • 3 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1½ cups salt
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 5 whole bay leaves
  • 5 leaves fresh sage
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 large sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 large onion peeled and chunked
  • 3 stalks celery chunked
  • 1 bundle Italian Flat Leaf Parsely chopped into 1" pieces
  • 2 gallons cold water
Aromatic Vegetables: 15 minutes
  • 2 large onions
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 12 stalks celery assorted sizes, about 1 bunch
Seasoned Butter Rub: 3 minutes
  • ½ cup salted butter
  • 3 tsp black pepper fresh ground
Instructions
Make The Turkey Brine
  1. Add everything to a large pot except the water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and cover. Chill until brine is cold.
Brine The Turkey
  1. Remove the neck and other giblets for another use. Wash the turkey. Put the turkey in the brine 24 hours before you need to start it cooking.
  2. Place the turkey in a brining bag. Add the brine and the 2 gallons of water. If the turkey will not be fully submerged add just enough additional water to cover. Refrigerate or store in a cooler with enough ice to keep the meat at 40F or below. Do not freeze. The cooler is easiest. Brine for 24 hours.
Prep the Aromatic Vegetables (I do this in advance when I brine the bird and have them ready in the fridge)
  1. Peel onions and cut into large chunks.
  2. Cut the ends off of the carrots and scrub. Cut in each carrot in half lengthwise and cut the lengths into 2"-3" chunks.
  3. Wash the celery and trim off the ends. Cut stalks into 2"-3" chunks.
  4. Store veggies in a ziploc bag until you are ready to put the turkey in the oven.
Cook the Turkey - Stage 1
  1. Clean your sink well. Remove the turkey from brine and place in the sink. Discard brine and bag. Wash the turkey off inside and out. Soak it in lukewarm water in the sink for 20 minutes. This will help reduce saltiness.
  2. Preheat oven to 275 F. Pat the turkey dry. Place 2-3 handfuls of the prepared aromatic vegetables into the cavity of the turkey. Place the rest of the vegetables in the roasting pan under the rack. Make sure they are down in the pan far enough that they do not stick up into the rack.
  3. Place the bird on the roasting rack, breast side up. Cross the legs in back or tuck them together and tie firmly with kitchen twine.
  4. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Four long sheets should do it. Use the first sheet to hold the wings close to the body. Cover the rest of the bird crimping the foil underneath the edges of the roasting pan. Make sure to leave the handles out for easy access.
  5. Bake at 275 F for 10 minutes for every pound of turkey.
Cook the Turkey - Stage 2
  1. Mix room temperature butter and pepper together.
  2. Remove the turkey from the oven and discard foil. Massage the pepper butter into the turkey making sure to cover the entire outside. Right now the turkey will still be pretty pasty looking. Caution turkey will be hot...
  3. Increase the oven heat to 350 F. Put the turkey back in the oven and baste it with the juices that have collected in the pan every 15-20 minutes until a digital thermometer reads 165 F. Check the thickest part of the breast and the thigh. This will be another 1- 2 hours depending on the size of the turkey.
  4. If you want to crisp the skin just a little bit more you can broil the bird for 1-2 minutes. Be very careful and check the bird every single minute. You can burn it black doing this. I set a timer and watch with the oven light on to make sure the turkey is not burning. You do not want to destroy the skin at the very end.
  5. Remove the bird from the oven and tent it with foil. Let rest for 30 minutes. Carve and serve.
Leftover Safety
  1. The safety recommendation for turkey is to not leave it unrefrigerated for more than two hours. Since you let it rest for 30 minutes, leftovers should be refrigerated 90 minutes after you serve it. I confess I'm not that prompt to refrigerate the bird but this is the "safe" way to prepare your leftovers.
Notes

The Plan Overview


Up to six days before Thanksgiving depending on the thawing method and size of bird
Thaw the turkey if it is frozen. Check out How to Safely Thaw a Turkey if you don't know how.


Tuesday
Make the brine

Wednesday
24 hours prior to putting the bird in the oven place it in the brine.
Cut up your aromatic veggies in perpetration

Thursday (Play it safe and start 1 hour early! It may save your bacon.)
Prep turkey for oven: 30 minutes
Plan on 10 minutes / pound for the 1st stage of cooking.
During stage two the turkey needs to be basted every 15-20 minutes for about 1-2 hours depending on turkey size
Let the turkey rest 30 minutes before carving

P.S.  How much turkey should you buy???  1 pound of turkey for each person you want to serve.  Of course we always make extra for all the yummy leftover dishes I make.  Keep an eye out next week for great ideas for your leftover turkey!

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How to Brine and Roast the Perfect Turkey
Print Recipe
This flavorful brine recipe and simple roasting directions will make your Thanksgiving prep easy. Check out the Turkey Prep and Roasting Time Plan I included to get you through the turkey roasting process without stress or frustration. Everything you need to know for an amazing turkey, all in one place.
Servings
1 Turkey
Servings
1 Turkey
How to Brine and Roast the Perfect Turkey
Print Recipe
This flavorful brine recipe and simple roasting directions will make your Thanksgiving prep easy. Check out the Turkey Prep and Roasting Time Plan I included to get you through the turkey roasting process without stress or frustration. Everything you need to know for an amazing turkey, all in one place.
Servings
1 Turkey
Servings
1 Turkey
Ingredients
To Make The Turkey Brine: 15 Minutes
Aromatic Vegetables: 15 minutes
Seasoned Butter Rub: 3 minutes
Servings: Turkey
Instructions
Make The Turkey Brine
  1. Add everything to a large pot except the water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and cover. Chill until brine is cold.
Brine The Turkey
  1. Remove the neck and other giblets for another use. Wash the turkey. Put the turkey in the brine 24 hours before you need to start it cooking.
  2. Place the turkey in a brining bag. Add the brine and the 2 gallons of water. If the turkey will not be fully submerged add just enough additional water to cover. Refrigerate or store in a cooler with enough ice to keep the meat at 40F or below. Do not freeze. The cooler is easiest. Brine for 24 hours.
Prep the Aromatic Vegetables (I do this in advance when I brine the bird and have them ready in the fridge)
  1. Peel onions and cut into large chunks.
  2. Cut the ends off of the carrots and scrub. Cut in each carrot in half lengthwise and cut the lengths into 2"-3" chunks.
  3. Wash the celery and trim off the ends. Cut stalks into 2"-3" chunks.
  4. Store veggies in a ziploc bag until you are ready to put the turkey in the oven.
Cook the Turkey - Stage 1
  1. Clean your sink well. Remove the turkey from brine and place in the sink. Discard brine and bag. Wash the turkey off inside and out. Soak it in lukewarm water in the sink for 20 minutes. This will help reduce saltiness.
  2. Preheat oven to 275 F. Pat the turkey dry. Place 2-3 handfuls of the prepared aromatic vegetables into the cavity of the turkey. Place the rest of the vegetables in the roasting pan under the rack. Make sure they are down in the pan far enough that they do not stick up into the rack.
  3. Place the bird on the roasting rack, breast side up. Cross the legs in back or tuck them together and tie firmly with kitchen twine.
  4. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Four long sheets should do it. Use the first sheet to hold the wings close to the body. Cover the rest of the bird crimping the foil underneath the edges of the roasting pan. Make sure to leave the handles out for easy access.
  5. Bake at 275 F for 10 minutes for every pound of turkey.
Cook the Turkey - Stage 2
  1. Mix room temperature butter and pepper together.
  2. Remove the turkey from the oven and discard foil. Massage the pepper butter into the turkey making sure to cover the entire outside. Right now the turkey will still be pretty pasty looking. Caution turkey will be hot...
  3. Increase the oven heat to 350 F. Put the turkey back in the oven and baste it with the juices that have collected in the pan every 15-20 minutes until a digital thermometer reads 165 F. Check the thickest part of the breast and the thigh. This will be another 1- 2 hours depending on the size of the turkey.
  4. If you want to crisp the skin just a little bit more you can broil the bird for 1-2 minutes. Be very careful and check the bird every single minute. You can burn it black doing this. I set a timer and watch with the oven light on to make sure the turkey is not burning. You do not want to destroy the skin at the very end.
  5. Remove the bird from the oven and tent it with foil. Let rest for 30 minutes. Carve and serve.
Leftover Safety
  1. The safety recommendation for turkey is to not leave it unrefrigerated for more than two hours. Since you let it rest for 30 minutes, leftovers should be refrigerated 90 minutes after you serve it. I confess I'm not that prompt to refrigerate the bird but this is the "safe" way to prepare your leftovers.
Recipe Notes

The Plan Overview

Up to six days before Thanksgiving depending on the thawing method and size of bird
Thaw the turkey if it is frozen. Check out How to Safely Thaw a Turkey if you don't know how.

Tuesday
Make the brine

Wednesday
24 hours prior to putting the bird in the oven place it in the brine.
Cut up your aromatic veggies in perpetration

Thursday (Play it safe and start 1 hour early! It may save your bacon.)
Prep turkey for oven: 30 minutes
Plan on 10 minutes / pound for the 1st stage of cooking.
During stage two the turkey needs to be basted every 15-20 minutes for about 1-2 hours depending on turkey size
Let the turkey rest 30 minutes before carving

P.S.  How much turkey should you buy???  1 pound of turkey for each person you want to serve.  Of course we always make extra for all the yummy leftover dishes I make.  Keep an eye out next week for great ideas for your leftover turkey!

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4 thoughts on “How to Brine and Roast the Perfect Turkey

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Next year I want to experiment with a dry brine. Some friends have said it makes an excellent moist turkey but it is much easier because there is no heavy water to deal with.

    • Not necessary. I’m a huge advocate of adjusting recipes but a brine has a specific sugar/salt ratio that should not be adjusted. If you are worried about the salt content try starting with a turkey that has not been injected with a salt solution prior to sale. Generally this will be a bird that has never been frozen (all natural). You can also rinse the bird after the brine and before roasting. I always do that just to ensure there is no extra salt. I have never had a problem with salty meat.

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