Brined Whole Turkey
Whether you fry, roast, grill or smoke a turkey, the process of brining makes the meat more tender, moist and flavorful.
1 (15-pound) whole turkey, (not self-basting or kosher) thawed, giblets and neck removed
2 cups table salt (do not substitute equal amounts of kosher salt)
2 gallons* icy cold water
4 cups packed brown sugar **
1/2 cup dried rosemary leaves
1/2 cup dried thyme leaves
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small stalk celery, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
As needed fresh fruit for garnish
- For Brining Procedure: Rinse turkey in cool water.
- In a very large clean container (non-corrosive pan or stockpot such as stainless steel or glass or a food-grade plastic container), mix salt and water together until salt dissolves. Stir in brown sugar and spices, mix well until sugar dissolves.
- Totally submerge poultry in solution and store, covered, in refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 8 hours. Since brining does not preserve meat, the turkey must be kept below 40°F (5°C) throughout the entire brining process. Ice packs may also be used to keep turkey at a safe temperature of below 40°F (5°C).
- Remove turkey from brine. Discard brine. Thoroughly rinse the interior and exterior of the turkey by placing it on a wire rack and setting both rack and turkey in a clean, empty sink. Use cool water from the spray hose and rub gently to release the salt and sugar from the turkey.
- Pat skin and both interior cavities dry.
- For Roasting Procedure: In the cavity of turkey, place onion, carrot and celery.
- Brush turkey with melted butter.
- Roast turkey, breast side down, in a preheated 325°F (160°C) oven for 2 hours. During this time, baste legs and back twice with melted butter.
- Remove turkey from oven and protecting your hands, grasp turkey with several layers of clean paper towels at both ends, and turn turkey, breast side up.
- Return turkey to oven and continue to roast, basting twice with pan dripping. Continue to roast until internal temperature reaches 170°F (80°C) in the breast and 180°F (85°C) in the thigh. (Note: A brined turkey cooks slightly faster than an unbrined turkey, so check the internal temperature frequently.)
- Remove turkey from the oven and allow to stand for 20 minutes before carving.
- Transfer to a platter and garnish with fresh fruit.
Makes 22 servings.
*The ratio of water to salt is appropriate for a 15-pound turkey. If a larger or smaller turkey is brined, please calculate accordingly.
**Other combinations of herbs may be added including 6 to 8 bay leaves, 3 cloves garlic and 2 teaspoons black peppercorns. Or a HOT and spicy flavor may be achieved by the addition of 1 cup small dried red chile peppers.
Recipe and photograph provided courtesy of the National Turkey Federation.