I started brining turkey in 2002, after an embarrassing Thanksgiving dinner with a dry and tough roasted turkey as the centerpiece to my Thanksgiving Feast.
Brining is a process similar to marinating, but primarily focused on adding moisture to the turkey as opposed to adding or changing flavor. The turkey is soaked overnight in a solution of salt and water that ensures moist results. When you add aromatics to the brine, the resulting roast is also infused with a subtle character all its own.
Over the years I have used different vessels to brine my turkey in – from sinks, to buckets, tubs, coolers and my favorite and most efficient The Brining Bag! What I like about the a brining bag, depending on the size of your turkey, can fit your bagged and brining turkey is one of the vegetable crisper drawers in your refrigerator. If your bird is too big for a refrigerator drawer, still use the brining bag and place in a cooler. Once you have your bagged turkey in the cooler, fill with ice and store in a cool place or outside.
I use the same basic brine every year, though sometimes I change the aromatics a little bit. Also, this year I am preparing a healthier version using sea salt rather than kosher salt, increased the apple cider and eliminated the brown sugar.
If you have not tried brining, give it a try this year.
If you have any questions or comments about your Thanksgiving meal, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or come by the store and meet with me in person!
- 1 (13-15 pound) fresh turkey
- • 1 cup Kosher salt
- • 1 cup packed brown sugar
- • 1 qt (4 cups) vegetable stock
- • 1 qt (4 cups) apple cider
- • 3 fresh bay leaves
- • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- • 2 tablespoons whole allspice berries
- • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- • 4 springs fresh thyme
- • 6 leaves fresh sage
- • 2 fresh oranges cut in half
- • 1 ½ gallons ice water
- 1. Place salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, allspice berries, vegetable stock and apple cider in a large pot over high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the salt and sugar are almost completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add fresh herbs and oranges, let cool to room temperature.
- 2. Place a large resealable bag or brining bag inside a 4 gallon container (most removable vegetable or crisper drawers are the right size). Open the bag and add the ice water and cooled brine; set aside.
- 3. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey cavity and discard or save for another use. Remove any wire or plastic holding the legs together. Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels. Place breast-side down in the brine and seal the bag, squeezing out the air so that the brine comes about halfway up the side of the turkey.
- 4. Slide the drawer, or place the container, in the refrigerator and brine for 12-16 hours, turning the turkey once while it’s still inside the bag.
- Thanksgiving Day – time to cook the turkey!
- 1. Pre heat oven to 500 degrees F and arrange the rack in the lower third of the oven. Remove the turkey from the brine and thoroughly rinse it inside and out with cold water for at least 2 minutes. Discard the brine and bag.
- 2. Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels and tuck the wing tips back and underneath. Rub a generous amount of oil all the outside. Place onion, celery, apple and herbs inside the cavity. Wind a piece of twine around each leg once and tie the ends together.
- 3. Place the turkey on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan.
- 4. Roast for 30 minutes. This will crisp the skin and give it a golden brown color.
- 5. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F, and continue to roast, basting every 15-20 minutes once the pan juices accumulate, until a meat thermometer inserted into the inner thigh registers 165 degrees and the juices run clear, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
- 6. Remove the turkey from the oven and let rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving.