One of the best Thanksgiving turkey recipes we’ve ever tried was shared with us by a friend several holidays back and I’m adding it to the Country Time site for you to enjoy.
The secret to cooking a Thanksgiving turkey that everyone will love is in the preparation.
The secret is in the brining process.
Brining benefits are numerous. Basically, when meat is soaked in a salt and/or sugar/or seasoning solution.
This is referred to as brining meat, and brining makes turkey meat juicier by increasing the amount of liquid inside the meat walls.
The added bonus is with the addition of salt, and sometimes sugar, and peppercorns to the water, the turkey also is seasoned perfectly without the need for additional seasoning.
Brining keeps the turkey breast meat moist, even if it overcooks by 10 degrees or so. As the meat absorbs some of the water during the process, and as water is a heat conductor, this also expedites cooking time.
In fact, a brined bird cooks faster than an un-brined bird by about 30 minutes.
Wouldn’t you love to bring a succulent, juicy, perfectly browned turkey to the table this Thanksgiving? Here’s how.
Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe:
* 2 Gallons COLD Water
* 2 Cups Kosher Salt (read notes below)
* 2 Tbsp. Whole Peppercorns, coarsely cracked
* (2 Cups Brown Sugar – see below – also optional)
* 1 Turkey, fresh or thawed frozen, 12-18 lbs.
* Medium Onions, cut into chunks
* Carrots, scraped, cut into chunks
* Celery Ribs, cut into chunks
* Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
* Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
* Leaves of Fresh Sage or Sprigs of Fresh Oregano
* 6 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil or unsalted Butter
Brine Your Turkey:
NOTE: You can successfully brine any fresh turkey or thawed frozen turkey with the EXCEPTION of Kosher Turkeys, which have already been salted, and any turkey that is self-basting or pre-basted – these turkeys have already been injected with salty broth and sometimes fat.
The day before roasting (and you don’t have to fool with the raw turkey on Thanksgiving Day – convenience), take fresh or a thawed frozen turkey out of its wrapping. Remove giblets, neck, and tailpiece from the bird and rinse thoroughly inside and out under cold running water. (You can make a stock with the giblets for turkey gravy ahead of time if you wish.)
Safety always: Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils touched by raw poultry with hot soapy water.
I prefer Kosher Salt to table salt in brining because of its texture and taste.
If you insist on using table salt, use half as much. I also like to add 2 tablespoons of Whole Peppercorns, coarsely cracked, for flavor.
Sometimes, I also add brown sugar to round out the flavor.
If using the brown sugar, add 2 cups of brown sugar and 2 cups of Kosher Salt to 4 Cups of water and then cook over medium heat until the sugar and salt dissolves – you must cool the mixture before adding to the two gallons of cold water to brine the turkey.
Otherwise, simply add the 2 Cups of Kosher Salt and peppercorns to the 2 gallons of COLD water and stir until salt dissolves.
If you are going to brine your turkey 8-15 hours or overnight, use the recipe above for 2 cups of Kosher Salt to the 2 gallons of cold water.
If you are going to brine your turkey for only 4-6 hours, then use 4 Cups of Kosher Salt to the 2 Gallons of Cold Water.
Dissolve the proper amount of Kosher Salt into the COLD water in a large stockpot or line a clean bucket with a large kitchen garbage bag and pour the water into that. Add cracked peppercorns. Then, add turkey to the saltwater and refrigerate 4-8 hours or overnight.
If you do not have room in your refrigerator to brine it, you can put the turkey with a weighted lid on it in a cool basement or garage or ice chest that is 40 degrees or colder.
Air-Drying For A Crisp Skin:
The night before roasting, remove the turkey from the brine. Discard the brine.
Rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out under cold running water and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place turkey, breast side up, on a flat wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet or pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours.
In test kitchens, it was discovered that allowing the turkey to sit uncovered in the refrigerator overnight before roasting produced a Thanksgiving turkey with a crackling, crisp, brown skin.
Apparently, the residual moisture left in the skin from brining has an opportunity to evaporate during the overnight rest in the refrigerator. The skin now crisped in the oven instead of steaming from the excess moisture. An added benefit is that now you do not need to pat the skin dry before brushing with oil or butter at the time of roasting.
If you do not want to air-dry overnight, simply remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out under cold running water and pat dry inside and out with paper towels.
Place your oven rack in the lowest position. This allows for even, allover browning and keeps breast away for hot spots near top of oven. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Toss one third of the onions, carrots, and celery with a sprig of each fresh herb and one tablespoon of melted butter in a medium bowl – fill the turkey cavity with the vegetable mixture. You do not need to salt and pepper your turkey.
Tuck wings behind back. Using kitchen twine or 100% cotton string, tile the legs LOOSELY at the ankles. Tying them too tightly can prevent the thighs from cooking evenly. Set in a roasting v-rack in a roasting pan with low sides. Spray rack with vegetable cooking spray. (A roasting rack keeps the bird steady and elevated so air flows underneath the bird for more even cooking. Some racks come with handles that make it easy to lift out of the pan.)
Scatter remaining vegetables and herbs in the roasting pan and pour one cup of water over the vegetables. (Periodically during roasting time, make sure that the water doesn’t completely evaporate, adding water ½ cup at a time, so you don’t burn your vegetables and drippings you’ll be using for flavoring in the gravy.) Brush or rub the turkey skin with melted butter or extra virgin olive oil when you’re checking on the veggies/drippings.
Most packaged turkeys used for Thanksgiving turkey recipes come with a pop-up timer and instructions for the roasting time. If yours does not the suggested roast time is about 20-30 minutes per pound at 350F. (20 min. for unstuffed birds, 30 min. for stuffed birds)
Another benefit of this recipe for Thanksgiving turkey is that you don’t need to spend extra money on cooking bags. Your Thanksgiving turkey will be juicy and delicious because of the secret of brining your turkey first.