Brined Roast Turkey

Brined Turkey-1 Most people cook turkey once a year. It’s usually for a big group of people, you’re trying to impress everyone with your domestic skills and it doesn’t make much sense to cook something that you don’t actually get to practice too often. I mean, most of the dinner parties that we host we have our signature meals down pat, we can cook them in our sleep. You have perfected them in every way possible, and know what to do in any scenario when something funny may happen. Thanksgiving dinner for your family and all your aunts, cousins and in-laws, no pressure, right? With this recipe that I’m sharing, you can relax knowing that it will turn out perfectly and make everyone happy.

This is a recipe I got from Good Eats, Alton Brown’s show on Food Network. This guy is a genius. Did you know that this episode is the most popular recipe from all the recipes on Food network?It’s that good.  You can watch it here. This turkey has passed the test and has been enjoyed all around the country. You can rest assured that for this Thanksgiving, your turkey will be flavorful down to the bones of the bird, with juicy and moist meat and lovely golden brown skin. That’s how I rate my turkeys. We’ve all eaten our share of dry, dry dry birds and the worst crime EVER is flabby, pale skin. No, no, NO. Let’s do this right, folks. 

 Ingredients:

1 (14-16) lbs turkey
Brine:
1 gallon vegetable broth
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
3 dry bay leaves
1 gallon heavily iced water
1 head garlic, cloves smashed
Aromatic Stuffing:
1 onion
1/2 head garlic
1 orange
1 lemon
thyme, parsley
1-2 cups broth, chicken or vegetable

Instructions:

Combine the vegetable broth, salt, sugar, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large pot. You can also combine a small portion of the broth or water that you’ll be using for the brine with the salt, sugar, bay leaves and peppercorns and heat in a pot until the salt and sugar dissolve. (Make sure you pour in at least 2-3 cups of broth or water or the salt won’t dissolve.)

To make homemade vegetable broth: Cook leeks, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, bay leaf, peppercorns, herbs (parsley, thyme), kale, zucchini, cauliflower, season with salt and cook for about 45 minutes. (Use your own judgement on what kind of veggies to include in the broth.) Strain and cool.

Combine all the brine ingredients in a big bucket or cooler. Submerge the turkey in the brine. I put my container inside a large cooler and place ice all around it and brine it overnight. You want the turkey to brine for at least 8 hours, and up to 16 hours. Halfway through, flip the turkey over onto the other side.

Tips For the Perfect Turkey

1. Brine the bird: Why should you brine?

As the turkey soaks in the brine, the salt denatures the protein and allows the salt to enter the meat. As the turkey roasts, it loses moisture, but since it absorbed an excess amount, it still retains some of the moisture and stays nice and juicy. (And keeps the flavors too.) Surprisingly enough, there will only be about 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt per serving, so you don’t have to be nervous that you turned the turkey into a salt lick.

Brining is a way to add lots of flavor to the meat. As the turkey is soaking in the brine, the salt is penetrating all the way to the center of the meat, not just the outside. By adding other flavors to the brine, all those flavors will take a trip with the salt into the meat.

2. Do not overcook it: This is where a thermometer comes in. If you overcook it, the turkey will be dry.

3. Let it rest before carving: It’s very tempting to take the turkey from the oven straight to the table and dig right in. Not so fast! Are you worried that it will get too cold before you eat it if you let it stand at room temperature?

As the turkey roasts, the muscles get very tight and push out the moisture from the bird. If you let it rest, the muscles relax and the juices redistribute into the meat. If you cut right it, all those juices will leak right out and pool under the bird instead of in it. Give it a good 30 minutes.

When I made this turkey, my husband was held up at work so we ended up carving it 2 hours after I took it out of the oven and it was still hot. No need to worry. Your bird will still be warm.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place a v-shaped rack inside a roasting pan. If you have a cheap roasting pan that peels the first time you wash it, (like mine), line the roasting pan with aluminum foil. Line the rack with aluminum foil too and poke it all over with a wooden skewer. This is so all the juices from the turkey will drip down into the pan. Spray the aluminum foil over the rack with oil, so that the turkey won’t stick to it. Discard the brine and pat the turkey dry with paper towels.

Cut the orange, lemon and onion into sections.

Place the orange, lemon, onion, garlic cloves and herbs inside the cavity of the bird. All those amazing aromas will seep into the turkey as it roasts. Tie the legs of the bird together with kitchen twine.

Tuck the wings behind the back of the turkey.

Season the turkey with freshly ground black pepper on both sides. Pour 1-2 cups chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan. This will prevent the turkey drippings from burning as the turkey roasts. Place the turkey breast side down and bake at 500 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

I like to start roasting any poultry breast side down so the skin will be crispy all around, not just on top. Also, the breast meat is the easiest to overcook and white meat is much drier than dark meat. For this reason, roasting the turkey breast side down first, slows the cooking of the breast meat a little.

If you’d rather not deal with turning the turkey over, just don’t do it. It’s up to you.

Turn it over breast side up and roast for another 20-25 minutes breast side up. Reduce temperature to 350 and continue roasting until the thickest part of the thigh registers 170-175 degrees. Can you see how gorgeously golden and crisp the skin is? Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Save the turkey drippings to make amazing gravy or use some of it to flavor your Challah Herb Dressing.

Let the turkey hang out for at least half an hour before you cut into it.

Brined Turkey-1

Brined Roast Turkey
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 1 turkey
Ingredients
  • 1 (14-16) lbs turkey
Brine:
  • 1 gallon vegetable broth
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 3 dry bay leaves
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water
  • 1 head garlic, cloves smashed
Aromatic Stuffing:
  • 1 onion
  • ½ head garlic
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • thyme, parsley
  • 1-2 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
Instructions
  1. Combine the vegetable broth, salt, sugar, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large pot. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolves. You can do this in advance, otherwise, cool.
  2. You can also combine a small portion of the broth with the salt, sugar, bay leaves and peppercorns and heat in a pot until the salt ans sugar dissolve. Use at least 2-3 cups of the broth, or the salt won't dissolve.
  3. To make homemade vegetable broth, cook leeks, onion, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, herbs (parsley, thyme), kale, zucchini, cauliflower, season with salt and cook for about 45 minutes. Strain and cool.
  4. Combine all the brine ingredients in a big bucket or cooler.
  5. Submerge the turkey in the brine. I put my container inside a large cooler and place all around it and brine it overnight. You want the turkey to brine for at least 8 hours, and up to 16 hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  7. Place a v-shaped rack inside a roasting pan. Line the roasting pan with aluminum foil. Line the rack with aluminum foil too and poke it all over with a wooden skewer. Spray the aluminum foil over the rack with oil, so that the turkey won't stick to it.
  8. Discard the brine and pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
  9. Cut the orange, lemon and onion into sections. Place the orange, lemon, onion, garlic cloves and herbs inside the cavity of the bird.
  10. Tie the legs of the bird together with kitchen twine. Tuck the wings behind the back of the turkey.
  11. Season the turkey with freshly ground black pepper on both sides.
  12. Place the turkey breast side down and bake at 500 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Turn over and bake for another 20-25 minutes breast side up.
  13. Reduce temperature to 350 and continue roasting until the thickest part of the thigh registers 170-175 degrees. It will take approximately 2½ hour total.
  14. Let the turkey rest at room temperature for at least half an hour before carving it.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Yelena Montik says

    Oh my goodness Olga, Thank you so much for posting this!! Thanksgiving is at our house this year and you are absolutely correct when you say that I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE!! The turkey I mean! Its the main dish and I was sooo scared! Was tempted to buy a ready turkey lol! Its awesome to know I can follow this and get it right.. I totally trust your opinion and cant wait to do my first turkey! Love your blog! God bless!

  2. Marina says

    I, too, have never tackled the turkey, it was always mom’s or MIL’s job, but this year, I’m volunteering! Thank you for posting this, I can’t wait to try it!

  3. Nelya says

    We have been cooking Alton’s turkey for at least 5 years now. It’s great. Never ever failed. Everyone is always impressed by the juiciness of the bird. We will be trying your Challah dressing this year.

  4. Tina says

    OMG, I’m gona convince my mom to try it your way this year! it looks amaaaazing!:) i’m drooling at my work as I’m reading your post…:)

    • says

      Hi Elena,
      No, I don’t use the aluminum foil. If you noticed in my instructions, I start roasting the turkey breast side down, which helps to prevent it from overcooking faster than the dark meat.
      P.S. If I was using the aluminum foil triangle, I would have included it in my instructions. I try to be as thorough as I can, including every detail. I don’t “hold out” certain steps. The link was included simply to show you where I got the original recipe. The way I actually cooked it, is described in the instructions.

  5. Yelena says

    Hi,

    Thanks for the detailed instructions. I’ve never done this before and planning to do it for the first time this Thanksgiving. Now where do I start as far as buying turkey? I went to the store today, and there are so many different brands and different prices. Does the more expensive bird tastes and cooks better or it doesn’t matter? Which brand do you buy? Thanks in advance.

  6. Natka says

    Olga, thanks for this awesome recipe, Im also doing this first time and hoping this will turn out great. But I got a question, my turkey is bigger, its 22 lbs, and your recipe says 16 lb turkey, will i need to add more of all ingredients for brine and what about cooking time. Will I need to cook it longer?

    • says

      Hi Natka,
      I am making a 20 lb turkey myself, so I had enough brine to cover the turkey. As long as the turkey is submerged in the brine it should be fine. If it’s sticking out a little bit, no big deal either, just turn the turkey over half way through. Keep it in the brine a few hours more than 8. If you do it overnight you have nothing to worry about. And yes, you will need to roast it longer. Just keep checking the temperature and roast until the thigh meat reaches 170-175 degrees.

  7. lena b says

    Hi again, when do you put the garlic in the brine? it’s a full head smashed right? You have it the ingredients but not in the directions… sorry to keep bothering you… I really don’t want to mess up. :o)

  8. Maria says

    Olga,thank you for this recipe.I did turkey first time and it turned out awesome.never ate turkey this tasty before.Everybody asked for recipe.Thank you for your blog.

  9. Sveta R says

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe!! I just made the turkey today using your recipe and it turned out awesome!!!! The meat was so juicy and just enough salt in it, LOVED it!!!! :)

  10. Maria N. says

    This turkey was definitely juicy. The one and only best turkey I made. However I did tweak the recipe a little. I used 1/2 gallon of veg broth plus 1/2 gallon of chicken broth and also used tangerines instead off oranges.(Didn’t have all the necessary ingredients, so had to substitute).

  11. Oxy says

    Never made turkey myself, but my mom in law always does it and she always put so much butter under the skin of the turkey so it wouldnt be dry but juice, in this receipe it has none of that so im kind of curious cuz i really want to give it a try before next thanksgiving, will it be really that juice?! :)

    • says

      Hi Oxy,
      When you put butter under the skin of the turkey, it will stay on the outside of the bird only. The brine will penetrate all the way through the bird, giving it lots of flavor. Salt changes the structure of the meat too, making it more juicy also. The choice is up to you though. This is how I make my turkey.

  12. Anna says

    In the aromatic stuffing, you show veg/chicken broth as an ingredient. I don’t see it being used in the stuffing anywhere, only in the brine. Were you planning to use it as gravy?

    • says

      Hi Anna!
      If you read the actual post you’ll see that I used the broth in the brine and also poured 1-2 cups of broth in the bottom of the roasting pan to keep it from scorching and burning as the juices drip down into the roasting pan. I didn’t make gravy, but you certainly can.

  13. Helen says

    i used this recipe for whole chicken, 1/2 portions of ingredients for brine. Came out really juicy and very tasty. Thank you for sharing your recipes. Love your blog!

  14. Vera says

    I cannot wait to try this recipe! It sounds so delicious. But I was wondering… Does the turkey have to be thawed before submerging it into brine or can it be frozen? Thank you.

  15. Yuliya says

    I’m also making turkey my first time this thanksgiving and we’ll be having my in-laws over which makes it more scary lol. I’m glad I found this recipe. Sounds like everyone loves it so I’m sure it’ll turn out great. Does the thyme make a big difference? I don’t have any so will need to buy it.

  16. Natasha says

    Hi Olga,
    I would like to make this turkey for thanksgiving this year and I have few questions
    1. Do you boil the brine first and then put ice in it to cool it off before you put turkey in it?
    2. Can I use turkey bag to cook it? Would it change the temperature or the method of baking it?
    3. Can I use store bought vegetable broth or you would recommend making my own?
    Thank you so much! Looking forward to making it!

    • says

      Hi Natasha!
      Boil the brine, cool completely and then add the ice. The ice is in there to keep the brine cold while the turkey is in there and to prevent bacteria from growing.
      No, I would not recommend using a turkey bag to roast the turkey. Simply use a roasting pan with a rack.
      You can certainly use store bought vegetable broth if you don’t want to make your own.
      Hope you enjoy the turkey:). Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. Natasha says

    I was making turkey for the first time this year. I was nervous and didn’t want to upset 12 people. But, let me tell you, it turned out amazing, so juicy and full of flavor. The skin was crispy and breast meat came out very juicy which I didn’t think it would. It’s the best we ever had. I used chicken stock as I didn’t have vegetable stock, and I used rosemary instead of orange. I had to cover the top with foil halfway through as it was starting to burn. My husband made gravy from the drippings and it was so good. Thanks for the recipe Olga!! You are truly an amazing chef!!

    • says

      I’m always thrilled to read comments like yours. I’m so happy you and your family enjoyed the turkey and made gravy as well. That’s awesome.

  18. Ala says

    Hi Olga!!! I was making turkey for the first time this year, since we moved to the USA recently. It turned out great!!!It was beautiful outside -golden and crisp, and juicy and tasty – inside !!! Everybody asked for the recipe.Thank you so much for the recipe! May God bless you and your family!!!

  19. Vera says

    Olga I really wanna do this turkey for Christmas but Im worried about few things. I do not have a thermometer to check the turkey. Ill try to buy one tomorrow though. i want to put turkey oven and go to church do you think nothing will happen to it if I leave it cooking for 2 hours while we are at church?

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