Thanksgiving: Herb Brined Roast Turkey

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A brined turkey is one that sits in salted water (with the addition of some herbs and sweeteners in this case) for 12-24 hours before cooking. Brining will not make your turkey taste salty, but will help keep all of those wonderful juices inside the meat, where they belong. Brining does require some advance planning, however. Here is how I approach brining for Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving Turkey Timetable:

  • Tuesday evening: Prepare brine. Cover and let it sit overnight.
  • Wednesday morning: Add turkey to brine; Let it sit in a cool place (below 40F) for 12-24 hours (I usually go with close to 24 hours)
  • Thursday (Thanksgiving!):
    • 4 hours before you plan to serve the meal: Remove turkey from brine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
    • 3 1/2 hours before eating: Prep turkey and put in the oven. Roast until cooked through (about 2 1/2 to 3 hours total)
    • 30 minutes before eating: Remove turkey from oven and let rest for 30 minutes.
    • Serving time: Carve and serve turkey.

To Make an Herb-Brined Roast Turkey:

First you need to decide on and prepare your equipment:

  • large stockpot
  • large Ziploc bag (Ziploc Big Bags-Large Size) or 5 gallon food-grade bucket
  • cooler or large bin/bucket
  • ice

**Before beginning the brining process, gather together the needed equipment: a large stockpot (2+ gallons. If you don’t have one this large, you can prepare the first step of the brine, then add the remaining liquid to your brining bag or bucket); large Ziploc bag (Ziploc Big Bags- Large Size) or 5 gallon food-grade bucket; a cooler or very large bin/bucket that will fit the large Ziploc bag or 5-gallon bucket (filled with turkey and brine) plus room to add ice around the outside; ice. You need to maintain a temperature below 40F.

For the Brine: In a large stock pot, combine salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, pepper corns, garlic, fresh herbs and ONE gallon of water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let the mixture steep for 25 minutes. Add remaining 2 quarts water and 2 quarts apple cider (or additional water). Cool brine to room temperature (place pot in a sink full of ice water if you need the brine immediately, or let it sit at room temperature until cool-I leave it overnight).

Place the turkey in the Ziploc bag or bucket breast-side down. Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler or the bucket in a larger bin/bucket. Pour the brine into the bag or bucket with the turkey. Zip the bag closed, or put the lid on the bucket. Add ice around the outside of the bag or bucket to keep the turkey cold (below 40F). Place the cooler in a cool place (garage or outside). Let the turkey soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours. (NOTE: If it is cold enough outside, you may not need the ice. If it is too cold, use the garage as your turkey will freeze)

At least 30 minutes before cooking, remove the turkey from the brine. Pat dry (do not rinse).   DSC04259-1

Place a rack (v-shaped rack, preferably)  in a large roasting pan. For easier cleanup, I like to cover my rack with foil and poke holes in it. Place the turkey on the rack. Let turkey rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.DSC04483-1

Rub turkey generously all over (inside and out) with olive oil. Stuff cavity loosely with a peeled onion, whole garlic cloves, fresh herbs, tops of celery stalks (leftover from celery used for stuffing). Arrange turkey, breast side down, on the greased rack, folding back the wings and securing the legs.

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Cook for 60 minutes at 400°F, until the back of the turkey is well browned; turn the turkey breast side up and baste with juices from the bottom of the pan. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and return turkey to the oven.

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Roast for about another 90 minutes (exact time will depend on size of turkey: take out when the breast registers 155°F or the thigh registers 165°F; temperature will continue to rise about another 5 degrees out of the oven).

Transfer the turkey to a platter or baking dish with a small rim (don’t place directly onto a flat cutting board as juices will continue to leach for a little while). Let turkey rest for 30 minutes, uncovered, before carving. This ensures maximum juiciness. And gives you a chance make gravy and to pop those rolls in the oven just before serving dinner.

DSC04550-1RECIPE:

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Herb Brined Roast Turkey

Brine Ingredients:

2 cups kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbs whole black peppercorns
10-12 whole garlic cloves, crushed
4 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3-4 sprigs fresh sage
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 gallons water (or 1 1/2 gallons water + 2 qts apple cider)
1 large turkey (15-20 lb), thawed

Equipment **SEE NOTE:
large stockpot
large Ziploc bag (Ziploc Big Bags-Large Size) or 5 gallon food-grade bucket
cooler or large bin/bucket
ice

**EQUIPMENT NOTE: Before beginning the brining process, gather together the needed equipment: a large stockpot (2+ gallons. If you don’t have one this large, you can prepare the first step of the brine, then add the remaining liquid to your brining bag or bucket); large Ziploc bag (Ziploc Big Bags- Large Size) or 5 gallon food-grade bucket; a cooler or very large bin/bucket that will fit the large Ziploc bag or 5-gallon bucket (filled with turkey and brine) plus room to add ice around the outside; ice. You need to maintain a temperature below 40°F.

For the Brine: In a large stock pot, combine the salt, brown sugar, maple syrup, pepper corns, garlic, fresh herbs and ONE gallon of water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let the mixture steep for 25 minutes. Add remaining 2 quarts water and 2 quarts apple cider (or additional water). Cool brine to room temperature (place pot in a sink full of ice water if you need the brine immediately, or let it sit at room temperature until cool-I leave it overnight).

Place the turkey in the Ziploc bag or bucket breast-side down. Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler or the bucket in a larger bin/bucket. Pour the brine into the bag or bucket with the turkey. Zip the bag closed, or put the lid on the bucket. Add ice around the outside of the bag or bucket to keep the turkey cold (below 40°F). Place the cooler in a cool place (garage or outside). Let the turkey soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours. (NOTE: If it is cold enough outside, you may not need the ice. If it is too cold, use the garage as your turkey will freeze)

At least 30 minutes before cooking, remove the turkey from the brine. Pat dry (do not rinse). Place on a rack in a large roasting pan. Let turkey rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Roast as directed below.

Roasting Ingredients:

Brined Turkey from above
Olive oil
1 onion, quartered
1 stalk celery (or unused celery tops from celery used for stuffing), cut into 2-3 pieces
4-6 cloves garlic (whole)
Fresh herbs: any combination of thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano

Preheat oven to 400°F for at least 15-20 minutes. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position. Place a V-shaped rack in the bottom of your roasting pan (I like to cover this with foil, and poke holes in the foil).

Place the turkey, breast side down, on the rack.

Rub the turkey all over (inside and out, top and bottom) with olive oil. Put the quartered onion, celery, whole garlic cloves and herbs (no need to chop herbs) inside the turkey cavity (I do not ever put stuffing inside my turkey). Pour 2 cups of water in the bottom of the roasting pan.

If the legs of your turkey are not secured with a plastic or metal clip, tie them together with kitchen twine. Fold the wing tips back under the turkey. Roast, breast side down for 60 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the oven and turn it breast side up (you can use clean pot holders that you then throw into the laundry, or a bunch of paper towels). Baste turkey with drippings from the bottom of the pan. If the water level has dropped significantly, add another cup of water.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and roast for about another 90 minutes (exact time will depend on size of turkey: take out when the breast registers 155°F or the thigh registers 165°F; temperature will continue to rise about another 5 degrees out of the oven). Remove turkey from oven.

Transfer the turkey to a platter or baking dish with a small rim (don’t place directly onto a flat cutting board as juices will continue to leach for a little while). Let turkey rest for 30 minutes, uncovered, before carving. Save drippings for turkey gravy.

Turkey Gravy:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
4 cups turkey drippings or turkey broth***
salt and white pepper

Melt butter in pan (you can reuse your turkey roasting pan). Stir in flour. Cook, stirring with a whisk, until roux is golden brown. Slowly stir in turkey drippings, whisking constantly (***see note below). Taste; season gravy with salt and white pepper (if you are using the juices from a brined turkey or a canned turkey broth that contains salt, you may not need to add any additional salt).

***Note: Pour juices from the bottom of the turkey roasting pan into a Ziploc bag (you can strain the broth if it has a lot of solids in it). Seal bag and place upright. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until the fat separates and rises to the top of the bag. Over a large bowl or the pan you are using to make gravy, poke a hole in the bottom corner of the Ziploc bag and let the broth pour out. When most of the broth is gone and you are almost at the fat portion, tip bag upwards to stop the flow. Discard unwanted fat.

Thanksgiving Turkey Timetable:

  • Tuesday evening: Prepare brine. Cover and let it sit overnight.
  • Wednesday morning: Add turkey to brine; Let it sit in a cool place (below 40F) for 12-24 hours (I usually go with close to 24 hours)
  • Thursday (Thanksgiving!):
    • 4 hours before you plan to serve the meal: Remove turkey from brine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
    • 3 1/2 hours before eating: Prep turkey and put in the oven. Roast until cooked through (about 2 1/2 to 3 hours total)
    • 30 minutes before eating: Remove turkey from oven and let rest for 30 minutes.
    • Serving time: Carve and serve turkey.

 

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