Brined Roast Turkey (Video Recipe)
This brined turkey recipe will give you the juiciest and most flavorful turkey that will wow all your guests. Not only is the turkey golden and crisp on the outside, it’s moist and tender on the inside too.
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. 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:).
Watch the Video of How to Brine and Roast a Perfect Turkey
Why brine a turkey?
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.
- 1 (14-16) lbs whole turkey
- vegetable broth use store bought or homemade vegetable broth
- kosher salt
- brown sugar
- black peppercorns
- dry bay leaves
- 1 gallon heavily iced water
- onion, garlic
- orange, lemon
- thyme, parsley
- broth, chicken or vegetable
How to Make Turkey Brine:
- 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.) Homemade Vegetable Broth Recipe
- Pour all the brine ingredients into 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.
- Brine the turkey for at least 8 hours, and up to 16 hours. If the turkey isn’t completely submerged in the brine, halfway through, flip the turkey over onto the other side.
Roasting a Brined Turkey
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place a v-shaped rack inside a roasting pan.
- Discard the brine and pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
- Stuff the cavity of the turkey.
- Cut the orange, lemon and onion into sections and place them into the cavity of the turkey.
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.
Tips For the Perfect Turkey
1. Brine the bird:
2. Do not overcook it: This is where a thermometer comes in. If you overcook it, the turkey will be dry. This thermometer is really inexpensive and I’ve had it for years.
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. Don’t worry about the turkey getting cold too soon. It will stay warm for more than an hour.Print
Brined Roast Turkey
- Prep Time: 10 hours
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 12 hours
- Yield: 1 turkey 1x
- 1 (14-16) lbs turkey
- 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
- 1 onion
- 1/2 head garlic
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- thyme, parsley
- 1–2 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 all around it and brine it overnight. You want the turkey to brine for at least 8 hours, and up to 16 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reduce temperature to 350 and continue roasting until the thickest part of the thigh registers 170-175 degrees. It will take approximately 2 1/2 hour total.
- Let the turkey rest at room temperature for at least half an hour before carving it.
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!
You’ll do a great job, Yelena! You’re an awesome cook. I’m sure your turkey will be wonderful.
What if I want to do a smaller turkey? Do I need to adjust anything at all?
Nope, everything is the same except the roasting time will be shorter. Use an instant read thermometer and take it our when the breast meat is 165 and the dark meat is 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
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!
Good for you, Marina! Enjoy the turkey:).
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.
It really is a foolproof recipe and turns out perfect every time. We love it!
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…:)
Olga, Do you do the aluminum foil triangle as in the video that you had a link too? Thanks
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.
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.
I buy the frozen turkey. I don’t know the difference between brands. I usually buy Butterball or Honeysuckle.
I have the same questions as Yelena 🙂
After the turkey was brined, you only put pepper on it – no more salt. right?
No salt. The salt will have penetrated into the meat of the turkey and the turkey will be definitely salty enough.
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?
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.
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)
Yes, simply crush all the garlic cloves (with your hand or the back of a knife), peel and add it to the brine.
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.
That’s great, Maria! I’m so happy to hear that the turkey was a success:).
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!!!! 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to write about how your turkey turned out, Sveta! I am always thrilled to hear success stories.
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).
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?! 🙂
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.
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?
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.
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!
That’s great, Helen!
I like brining chicken too:).
Do you think you could post how you make gravy with the drippings? Love your recipes!! thanks 🙂
Great idea, Julia. I’ll have to do it in the future.
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.
Yes, the turkey has to be thawed before brining.
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.
I know what you mean, Yuliya:).
You can just omit the thyme or use another herb that you like.
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!
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!
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!!
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.
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!!!
That’s awesome! I’m so glad that this turkey was part of your holiday meal. I’m thrilled to hear such spectacular results.
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?
Hi Vera! How did the turkey work out? Sorry, I wasn’t available to answer your question.
Hi Olga! I have a question. In the ingredients list for stuffing you have 1-2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, but in the descriptions you don’t mention anything about it. Even if I poured it in it will come out once I put it in the oven. Wouldn’t it? Let me know. I really want to try your recipe this year. I think it’s going to be very delicious!
Here’s the part of the recipe that you missed:
“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.”
You can even use water instead of broth, if you’d rather. It’s important to have some liquid at the bottom of the roasting pan, especially since you are starting to roast the turkey at a high temperature, or else you might set off your smoke detector:). I like to make gravy from the drippings or drizzle some of the drippings on dressing, so I like to use broth, which has more flavor. However, if you’re not making gravy or dressing, water will work just as well. Hope that helps.
Do you do anything with the giblets (neck, heart, liver)? I feel bad about throwing it away, but I have no idea what to do with them.
You can use it to make the gravy or include it in the stuffing/dressing.
I like to use the neck when making stock and then use it in soup or gravy and also using the giblets in a barley or rice stuffing with some mushrooms, carrots, onions, garlic, more turkey or chicken stock. Delicious!
Hi Olga im planning to roast this turket tomorrow. I found everythong except the rack. Do you know where i can buy one like that?
I bought mine online, but I know most stores have them. Bed Bath and Beyond or any other store that sells cooking supplies. Hope you find it, Vera. It should be sold in lots of stores right now.
Thank you i found one at Winco 🙂 took the last one
This was our first Thanksgiving as newlyweds, and my mother in law bestowed the honor of making the turkey upon me. i was very nervous when she asked, but she, along with my encouraging husband, had much faith in me. The turkey was very juicy and flavorful. Thank you for your detailed recipe that was savory and most of all- simple to make!! I will be saving this recipe for the years to come.
Congratulations on your first turkey! It’s always a milestone:). I’m so glad that the recipe was helpful to you. This is by far my favorite way to make turkey. Thank you for taking the time to write.
We used your recipe on thanksgiving this year. I cook the perfect 26 pound bird. Thanks!
That’s great, Cindy:). I’m so happy to hear that it was a success!
Dear Olechka! Thank you so much for this (and all the other) recipes!!! I decided to cook this bird for Christmas just because of your recipe and suggestions. It turned out just perfect! My entire family loved it. We had so many guests over that we ate all of it in one day. I am definitely cooking it again next year. In the meantime, I have decided to apply this recipe to the turkey breast. We are having it for lunch tomorrow after church 🙂 I hope it will turn out as good as the whole bird. Thanks again! Many blessings to you and your family!
I’m so happy to hear that, Yelena! That’s wonderful. I’m glad that the turkey was a success.
On step 13 you said: “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.” Does that mean 2.5 hours after the previous step “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.” So a total time of 20-25 min + 20-25 min + 2.5 hours = so a little over 3 hours total? I want to make this for Sunday lunch after church and am wondering if I can brown the top and bottom before I leave for church and then come home and have the turkey cooked through (church is usually 2 hours long)… or should I bake it at a lower temp after browning so it doesn’t dry up?
That would be 2.5 hours TOTAL. This method doesn’t take as long to roast as when the turkey is whole.
hi Olya! Thank you for the recipe! Can you please tell what difference does it make between using frozen and fresh bird? is fresh alway better? thanks
This year is going to be my 3rd year using this recipe to make my turkey. It comes out perfectly every time. We are actually hosing Thanksgiving at our house this year and i’m confident that it will turn out great again 🙂 thank you for sharing this awesome recipe with us!
Oh, the only thing i don’t do is flip the turkey because I’m afraid to drop it..:)))
Hi Olga!! My first time throwing a thanksgiving dinner at our place this year ! So excited and nervous.
Just have one question. We have a gas oven and I’ve noticed it tends to over cook some food sometimes. What kind of oven did you use for the turkey recipe? I’m thinking I should adjust the temp in the beginning from 500 to maybe less ? What do you think ?
And I think 350 should be fine for the last few hours. 🙂
That’s so exciting, Natalie:). You can do it!
I used an electric oven for the turkey. Watch this video – Brined Roast Turkey Video.
It’s the updated version of the brined turkey recipe that I changed a bit through the years to make it even simpler. I cook the turkey at 350, so you should have no problem with your oven.
Hi Olya, do you cover the turkey with foil at any point or cook it uncovered? I didn’t find anything specific in the comments or your recipe. Thanks in advance 🙂
I don’t cover it unless it’s turning brown too quickly, otherwise I keep it uncovered.
OMG!!!! I’ll never in make turkey any other way!!!! The sauce with the citrus and fresh herb had a phenomenal taste. I added more of the orange, lemon juices to the sauce in the pan. It was absolutely the best. Thank you so much for the recipe. You made me proud!!!
That’s wonderful, Collin! I’m so happy that you enjoyed the turkey:). This is my favorite recipe too.
I’ll never make turkey any other way for the rest of my life!!!