Our Thanksgiving motto is brine baby, brine! After experimenting from year to year with methods and recommendations for a satisfying bird, brining consistently delivers us a bird that cooks faster, is moist, and flavorful. Brining takes some forethought and planning, but it is a simple process. Meat or poultry is submerged in a solution of salt and water, sweetened with sugar and aromatic flavorings, for 24-48 hours, dried and prepared for cooking.
Follow the jump for brining tips, cider brine recipe, and roasting tips.
Fresh v Frozen: We recommend a fresh, never frozen turkey. If buying frozen, thaw turkey in the refrigerator, Allow 2-3 days for a 12-18 lb turkey to thaw. No time to thaw? Place the wrapped turkey in a cold- water bath, change the water every half hour-for a whole turkey, thawing in cold water takes 6-8 hours.
Fresh turkeys are available at most grocery stores, call ahead and place an order to reserve your turkey. Choose a turkey that has undergone minimal processing, kosher turkeys and turkeys with a concentrated injection of saline (read the label!) are not preferred for brining.
Almost all the turkey available at the supermarket are a broad -breasted white breed. These turkeys have been bred to produce more white breast meat. If you have never tried a Heritage breed or are committed to local, fresh, natural turkey, try one of the choices still available from The Urban Grocery. Check their newsletter for availability of turkeys and contact information for Heritage turkey (less breast meat than conventionally raised turkeys, prized by farmers and chefs for their flavor and taste).
Brining prep: Water, kosher salt, sugar and seasonings are the basic ingredients to prepare the brine. Brining bags (find at William Sonoma, Sur La Table, grocery store) or extra large food safe plastic bags hold the turkey and the brine. You will need a large stockpot, roasting pan, or ice chest to hold the brining bag and its contents.
Cider Brine for Turkey for a 12 lb turkey
8 cups apple cider (or 4 cups no sugar added apple juice + 4 cups water)
6 cups ice cubes
2/3 cups Kosher salt (do not use table or fine grain salt for brine)
2/3 cups white, turbinado or light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
1 Tablespoon whole allspice
4" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
6 whole cloves
2 whole bay leaves
12 lb whole turkey
1 large orange, washed and quartered
With a motor and pestle, crush peppercorns and allspice.
Combine apple cider, water, Kosher salt, sugar, peppercorns, allspice, ginger and bay leaves in a small stockpot. Bring mixture to a boil, turn heat down and simmer until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool mixture to room temperature.
Remove turkey from packaging. Rinse inside and out and pat dry. Trim fat from tail and remove giblets and neck, reserve giblets and neck for gravy.
Place orange quarters inside turkey cavity. Place turkey in brining bag or double bagged extra large food safe bags. Place bagged turkey inside a large stockpot or roasting pan. Add liquid and ice cubes to the bag. Seal the bag tightly. Place the turkey in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, leave in brine up to 24 hours. Occasionally, flip the turkey over during the brining. Note: if you don't have enough refrigerator space, use an ice chest/cooler filled with ice during brining; keep temperature in food safety range.
Remove turkey from brine. Rinse, pat dry and place in roasting pan. Air dry in refrigerator uncovered (minimum 1 hour up to overnight) while you prepare the ingredients for roasting.
6 fresh sage leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
6 springs fresh parsley
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 oranges, washed and quartered
4 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1-cup vegetable broth
1 cup dry white wine
Preheat oven to 475 F
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Tuck wing tips under turkey. Place half the quartered oranges, herbs, and onions inside turkey cavity and neck cavity. Place remaining oranges, herbs onions in the bottom of the roasting pan with the vegetable broth and wine.
Place the turkey breast side down on a roasting rack in the pan. Brush turkey with melted butter or vegetable oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. (Starting breast side up and flipping the turkey is optional, we don't flip, we start and leave breast side up).
Reduce oven temperature to 350 F.
Using turkey forks or tongs, flip turkey over, breast side up. Roast an additional hour and 20 minutes. Check turkey every 30 minutes, baste if desired, if skin browns too quickly, tent the breast with a sheet of aluminum foil.
Test for doneness: a skewer inserted where the thigh meats the breasts releases clear liquid, internal temperature reads 160 F on thermometer, and skin is crisp golden brown. Stuffed turkey requires a longer cooking time.
Remove turkey from oven. Rest for 30 minutes to allow juices to redistribute before carving.
Check back tomorrow for pan gravy recipe.