How to Roast a Brined Turkey

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To roast a juicy, succulent turkey, without using any butter or oil, soak your turkey in a brine bath overnight, you will never want to cook a turkey another way.

Roasting a turkey can seem intimidating if you are doing it for the first time, but I can assure you, it is easier than you think! All you need is a little planning, room in your refrigerator, a probe thermometer, a turkey baster, a roasting pan (disposable one is fine) and you really can’t mess up.

You can purchase a brining blend or you can easily make the brine solution yourself. This was simply a combination of coarse sea salt, cane sugar, lemon peel, orange peel, rosemary, pink, red and green peppercorns, thyme, sage and bay leaves. You can use a gallon of apple cider or vegetable stock in place of some of the water, the ingredients are pretty flexible. I’ve seen some brine combinations with cinnamon sticks, star anise, chopped apple, candied ginger, etc.

Thanksgiving Planning Checklist

Decide how many people will be eating, plan your menu, and gather your Thanksgiving recipes.

Make room in the fridge

Start using up the foods that are taking up space in your refrigerator and freezer to make sure you have plenty of room for your turkey, roast and other dishes you will serve.

Go Shopping

Check your pantry to see what you already have and make a shopping list of the ingredient you will need. Purchasing all your pantry items early will reduce stress later when the stores are crowded.

Don’t forget the thermometers

If you don’t already have one, add a thermometer to your shopping list. A cooked whole turkey is safe at a minimum internal temperature of 165 F throughout the bird.

Brine The Turkey

24 hours before you plan to cook your turkey, brine your turkey.

Buy Brining Bags

To minimize cleanup, line a 5-gallon container with a large brining or oven-roasting bag. Transfer the turkey to the bag, add brining mixture, remaining water, and the other ingredients. Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.

Remove and Dry

Don’t roast a cold turkey. Take your bird out of the refrigerator (and out of the brine, if you’re brining) an hour before you put it in the oven to ensure even cooking and a moist bird.

What size bird should I buy?

Estimate roughly one pound of turkey for each person for ample portions and leftovers.

When should I buy a fresh turkey?

You don’t want to buy a fresh turkey too early or it will spoil. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving is perfect. Some grocery stores let you call ahead to reserve your turkey.

How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey?

The safest way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator. A twenty pound turkey will take about 4 days to thaw. After it has thawed, it is safe for another two days.

To roast a juicy, succulent turkey, without using any butter or oil, soak your turkey in a brine bath overnight, you will never want to cook a turkey another way.
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How to Roast a Brined Turkey

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CUISINE: American
To roast a juicy, succulent turkey, without using any butter or oil, soak your turkey in a brine bath overnight, you will never want to cook a turkey another way.

Ingredients

  • Citrus and Herb Brine:
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar, you can use brown
  • 4 sprigs rosemary, or 1/4 cup dry
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp green peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp red peppercorns
  • 10 sage leaves, or 3 tbsp dry
  • 2 tbsp thyme
  • 6 bay leaves, chopped
  • 1 lemon peel
  • 1 orange peel
  • 2 gallons water total
  • one fresh turkey, any size (If frozen, thaw 4 days before in the refrigerator)

Instructions

  • The night before you plan on cooking the turkey, remove the innards and rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water.
  • Boil 1 gallon of water and brining blend for 2 - 3 minutes, remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. To speed things up you can add some ice to it.
  • Combine cooled brine with 1 gallon of ice water and submerge the turkey in the brine bath so that it is completely covered. I used a brining bag to do this, but a large container or a 5 gallon bucket would even work.
  • Refrigerate overnight. If your brine doesn't completely cover the turkey, turn the turkey over half way through brining.
  • Next day, an hour before you are ready to cook the turkey, remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse the turkey well with cold water and pat dry. Place in a roasting pan, I used a cheap disposable aluminum one to show you that it doesn't have to be fancy. Let the turkey come to room temperature for one hour.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Place the turkey, breast side up in the center rack on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2½ inches deep. Roast in the oven for about 13 minutes per pound for an un-stuffed turkey, or until the internal temperature of the deepest part of the breast reaches 170°F.
  • Baste the turkey with the pan juices every 45 minutes. When the thermometer reaches 170°F in the deepest part of the breast, remove from oven and let it rest for 15 - 20 minutes before carving.

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96 comments

  1. Thanks for the helpful tips. I’m brining a turkey for the first time and had no idea what I was doing, but feel a little more prepared now.

    I think the brining recipe is a tad more complicated than it needs to be. In two gallons of water, the lemon and orange peels, and small amounts of herbs will be too dilute to have any effect, and seem wasted. Unlike marinades, which can be cooked with the meat, you just toss out the brine after its done, so keeping it simple (and more affordable) with just the sea salt and sugar seems like a better way to go.

    Just a thought – I don’t know much about the topic, but I have a science background and am trying to be helpful.

  2. I read somewhere to cook the turkey breast side down. I know I brined it breast side down am I confusing that with the cook?

  3. How much longer would you cook a stuffed brined turkey?

  4. Don’t cover it at all? At any time?

  5. Trader Joe’s said my fresh brined turkey of 12 lbs that I
    Picked up Saturday would be good for Thursday baking.
    You mentioned that a Turkey would only be safe fresh from Tu
    Tuesday pick up!!!!
    What should I do?  Take it back to Trader Joe’s.?
    Eddie Olin

  6. I wanted to find out if I would follow the same instructions for roasting a turkey if I purchased it already brined, will that be enough or because it’s frozen should I add any seasonings before I bake it? Thanks

  7. How long did the turkey take in the oven?

  8. Can the turkey be cooked in a bake in bag?

  9. IS the thyme fresh or dry?

  10. How would this be if I left out sugar? 

  11. I like this roasted turkey. It seems delicious.

  12. There is no better way to cook a turkey, in my book. I use the apple sage brine.

  13. Cool technique! I'm making a turkey for this christmas and i want to know if after this process i still need to put the traditional herbed butter between my turkey's skin and flesh?

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  15. HI Gina
    I know it's a bit late but I am planning to brine my turkey this year.
    We unfortunately don't have a Williams and Sonoma out here (LOVE THEM) so I bought a brining mix from Bulk Barn..(next year will make my own)
    My turkey is about 6kg. How much brine should I use and does the water content stay the same??

  16. I used this recipe last week for Thanksgiving. What a HIT it was!!!! This will be my Turkey recipe every year now. I didn't have a brining bag so I put my turkey in a cooler and left it outside overnight since it was cold enough outside. The turkey came out very moist and tastey!!

  17. This is the first turkey I ever brined and it was really simple and so moist and delicious. I omitted the citrus peel because I didn't want the citrus flavor, but otherwise I followed recipe and roasting directions. My turkey roasted in a about 1 hour less time which was surprising. I actually used a very large stock pot for brining, but I had only a 12lb turkey. Thanks so much for this recipe.