Delicious brined turkey

November 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I woke up early today to begin brining our turkey.  Have you ever brined a turkey?  It is absolutely the best way ever to make a turkey.  It comes out juicy and flavorful every time.   Here’s the recipe I use:

Delicious brined turkey (start preparation 24-hours before you plan to serve)

1 turkey (any size you want; our turkey this year is a very small 12-pounder)

1 can frozen apple juice concentrate (just get the generic kind)

1 1/2 cups kosher salt

5 juniper berries

1 tablespoon peppercorns (this year I’m using Szechuan peppercorns, but any kind will do)

6 Bay leaves

1 handful fresh Rosemary

4-5 fresh sage leaves

1 handful fresh thyme or marjoram leaves

2 oranges, unpeeled and cut in half

Brining bag, or a sturdy white plastic trash bag

Cold water

ice cubes

Start the process the day before you plan to serve the turkey.  Wash the turkey and remove giblets.  Place the turkey inside of a plastic brining bag (or just use a sturdy white trash bag, which is what I usually do).  Place the bagged turkey inside of a large cooler.  Pour all of the other ingredients into the bag with the turkey, except the water and ice cubes.

Add enough cold water to ensure that the turkey will be completely covered with water.  Gather the bag ends and twist together.  Tie closed with a rubber band.  Fill the cooler with ice, making sure that it is packed nicely around the plastic-bagged turkey.  Cover the cooler.  Check on the turkey every 4 hours or so, adding more ice as needed.  Check on the turkey before you go to bed, making sure that there’s enough ice to keep it cold overnight.

The next morning, add more ice, if necessary.  About 4 hours before you plan to serve, remove the turkey from the bag.  Discard the brine.  Rinse the turkey, and place on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan.  Tie the legs together and tuck the wings under.

Do not stuff this turkey with stuffing (if you do, it may come out tasting too salty), but do fill the turkey cavity with fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, and  1-2 sage leaves will work nicely), and a couple of orange halves, if you have them.  Celery tops add some nice flavor, as well.  If you don’t have anything to stuff the cavity with, then that’s perfectly fine…the turkey will still taste good.  Rub a little olive oil on top of the turkey (Dave prefers butter, which also works well).

Place the turkey in a preheated 350-degree oven.  Cook about 20 minutes per pound, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh measures 175-degrees.

If you’re like me, then you’ll have a whole bunch of stuff that also needs to be cooked in the oven (every year on Thanksgiving, I find myself longing for double ovens), but there won’t be any room in there, because the stupid turkey takes forever to cook.  What I do instead is cook the turkey in one of those portable electric roasters, while I use the oven for the other stuff.  Then about an hour before the turkey is scheduled to be finished cooking, I whisk it from the portable roaster, and into the oven to finish cooking.  I’ve found that this is exactly enough time in the real oven to give the turkey a nice crunchy golden sheen (turkeys cooked in those portable roasters do not get brown on top).

Have a terrific Thanksgiving!

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