Brining your turkey before cooking is the best way to infuse flavor and guarantee a moist bird. I've tried a few different brine recipes over the years and some are better than others so I'm offering you up two different ones. The first is Alton Brown's recipe, his brine has a lot of loyal followers who swear it's the best. This was also the first brine recipe I ever tried, I didn't love the ginger or allspice flavor it gave (although the flavor was subtle). The second brine recipe is my own. The liquid smoke and beer infuse just a hint of "something different". Try one at Thanksgiving and if you don't like it, try out the other one at Christmas. The directions for preparing are the same for both brines (for ease, I used Alton's directions).
Below the brine instructions you will find my recipe for aromatics to stuff the turkey with and Alton Brown's directions for roasting the turkey. I've also included an easy recipe for a garlic and herb butter to rub under the skin of the turkey. It's just another layer of flavor and helps to keep the turkey moist.
Alton Brown's Turkey Brine
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon iced water
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 gallon chicken stock
1 bottle beer/ale (your favorite, I use Guinness)
2 tablespoon liquid smoke
4 cloves of garlic
3 bay leaves, chopped
4 sprigs of thyme, chopped or crushed
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
Combine all brine ingredients (from ONE of the above recipes), except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve salt and sugar, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket or ice chest. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement or cool garage) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.
1 tart apple, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 cups water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
2 bay leaves
A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion, garlic, celery and 2 cups of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 6 minutes.
Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.
Garlic and Herb Butter
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced herbs (thyme or rosemary)
In a medium bowl combine softened butter with minced garlic and herbs. Rub this butter under the skin along the thighs, breasts and legs of turkey. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally canola oil.
Roasting the Turkey
Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary, sage and bay leaves.
Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.