Saturday, December 10, 2011

Perfectly Roasted Turkey

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is not quite here but I want to post a recipe for Turkey. You see, our Thanksgiving turkey this year was quite wonderful and I want to remember how I made it. If you are roasting a turkey anytime soon, you should check out these guidelines for a juicy, tender turkey. There are a couple of things that make this recipe turn out so well. One is the brining process. Another is high heat and then lowered heat with a foil cover over the white meat. Perfect!

I am sure some of you are familiar with Alton Brown; whose show Good Eats does so much more than demonstrate recipes. He gives you the science, logic, history and technique of cooking. If you have not seen his show, you should. Now I must admit I missed his show on Turkey Roasting but I did find his recipe and a video online at . I followed some of his unusual techniques on roasting as well as trying out his unique ideas on things to include in the brine. I have been brining turkey for years with great results. I have tried a few different methods to keep the white meat succulent while the dark meats gets completely cooked but his high temperature and foil cover method is the best!

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed when I got to my local market and found that the only fresh turkeys were around $55!! I have become accustom to only using fresh but  the frozen ones were less than $10 for huge birds. We had our smallest thanksgiving gathering in a while so I did not think I would need an 18 lb. bird but that was all there was so a huge frozen turkey it was. I was a bit worried it would not thaw but it finally did! If I had known I would be getting frozen turkey I would have purchased it earlier. It is always a good idea to know what is available before one goes shopping two days before Thanksgiving!

Roasted Turkey  
Adapted from Alton Brown at Good Eats

To Brine the Turkey, Start with thawed turkey about 10-24 hours before roasting.

·         1 cup kosher salt
·         1/2 cup brown sugar
·         1 gallon vegetable stock
·         1 tablespoon black peppercorns
·         1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries, optional
·         1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger, optional
·         Dried herbs such as poultry mix or sage,
1 gallon heavily iced water
  Turkey, frozen/thawed is fine, about 14-18 pounds

If you buy a frozen turkey remember it takes about three days to thaw. Three days before cooking you need to put frozen turkey in the refrigerator. If you don’t have space you could put it in a cooler of ice kept at 38 degrees F. but check often, turn it over several times and keep ice over it

For the brine, combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger and herbs (NOT the iced water) in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool and refrigerate. You can make the Brine a day or so before and then about 8-24 hours before roasting time you need to start brining process.

 I measure ice and water by filling a gallon container with ice and filling in with water. Then combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket or extra large stock pot. I buy a new bucket for this. Place the thawed turkey (with guts and stuff  removed) place breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed. Cover and refrigerate or set in very cool area, with ice, for 8 to 24 hours, (I think around 14 hours is best). Check to make sure turkey is staying submerged and is very cold and turn once half way through brining. I like to add ice to water to keep it very cold if it is not refrigerated.

Roasting the Turkey:
·         1/3 -1/2 cup softened butter or canola oil
·         Poultry seasoning herbs
·         1 lemon
·         1 onion
·         Several sprigs fresh sage, rosemary or other herbs
·         Cinnamon stick, optional.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Yes, 500! Trust me. Well, trust Alton Brown. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on roasting rack inside large roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels.
 Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with butter or canola oil. Try to rub a bit beneath the skin. Place cut up lemon, onion, herbs and seasoning with a bit of butter in the cavity of the turkey. Alton uses different aromatics in his turkey and they sound good- check out his website for information.

Take a large piece of aluminum foil and shape it into a large triangle that covers the entire breast of the turkey. Remove and set aside. You were just shaping it for later use.
Place in oven and roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. And place the foil triangle over the delicate white meat area. Pat down and place bird back in oven.
 A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 1/4 to 2 ¾ hours of roasting.
Check for proper temperature by inserting thermometer into thickest part of the breast and look for 161 degrees. A thermometer you can leave in oven is best; some even have alarm when temperature is reached. Christmas list time!
Once the turkey is cooked let it rest, loosely covered with foil for 15- 30 minutes before carving.


  1. wow... that is one perfect looking turkey! I have never brined... maybe I'll start with a small chicken first before I move to a big turkey. :) Thanks for giving me a great recipe to try. :)

  2. I have brined Turkeys for a few years and love it but for the past year or so I also started to brine chicken pieces. I like the texture and flavor and the chicken does not dry out. Brine is different than marinading because the carefully measured amount of salt and sugar infuse moisture into the meat ( remember osmosis from biology??) so always follow the amounts in brining recipes. Enjoy!

  3. Looks great D! I'm sure it was delicious.

  4. Aw, thanks Jason! So kind of you to comment here :-) Yeah, you are usually the cooker of the meat at our gatherings.

  5. The turkey look just lovely - and I bet it was delicious! I think it's terrific that you posted....for what is your blog if not a diary of what you've made?! Congratulations on a perfect bird!