If you are searching for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey recipe…look no further. I made this recipe for the first time last Thanksgiving, and I will never go back to my old ways. This recipe makes the most moist, flavorful turkey that I have ever had. The genius behind the recipe is the famous Alton Brown of The Food Network, and if you haven’t watched his Good Eats episode about roast turkey, I highly suggest you watch it here.
The secret to a great turkey? Brining! The process involves marinating the turkey in a seasoned salt water bath overnight, which helps to lock in the moisture and flavor. The hardest part of brining is finding something that will hold a giant bird and a ton of liquid, and keep it cold. I used a brining bag that I found at a local kitchen store, inside of my big canning pot. I luckily was able to fit everything in the refrigerator. You can also use a large 5 gallon bucket (a new one, obviously) or a large cooler, and keep it in your garage if you live in a colder climate. Just be sure that your turkey stays really cold throughout the brining process.
Alton’s method of cooking involves blasting the turkey for a half hour at 500 degrees F, then turning down the heat to finish the cooking process. This helps make the skin perfectly brown and crispy, while quickly cooking the rest of the turkey without drying it out. You can cook a 15 pound turkey in a total of 2 1/2 hours, so there is no need to get up at the crack of dawn to throw a turkey in the oven. In the end, brining requires a little more work, but the result is phenomenal, and well worth the extra hassle. Your guests will be sorry that Thanksgiving only happens once a year!
1 (14-16 lb.) fresh or frozen turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tbsp. black peppercorns
1½ tsp. allspice berries
1 gallon heavily iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
½ onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
To prepare the brine, combine the salt, brown sugar, vegetable stock, peppercorns, allspice and
ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the solids. Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until ready to use.
The night before you plan to serve the turkey, combine the brine and ice water in whatever container you are planning to brine your turkey in. Place the thawed turkey (innards removed) breast side down in the brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird so it is fully immersed. Cover and refrigerate or set in a cool area for 8-16 hours, turning once halfway through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500˚ F. Remove the bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on the wire rack inside a roasting pan. Pat dry with paper towels.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and 1 cup water in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add the steeped aromatics to the cavity of the turkey along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and brush the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on the lowest rack of the oven at 500˚ F for 30 minutes. During this time, you want to keep the breast of the turkey covered with foil to avoid the skin getting too brown. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, remove the foil and lower the oven temperature to 350˚ F. Set the thermometer alarm, if available, for 161˚F. (A 14-16 lb. bird will take a total of 2-2½ hours.) Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 15 minutes before carving and serving.
Source: Alton Brown via Food Network