Ultimate Holiday Turkey


More and more good cooks are discovering that the secret to moist, delectable turkey is brining. Brining adds both flavor and crucial moisture to the bird before it is roasted. At its most basic, brine is no more than water, salt and sugar, although you can vary the ingredients to make it more flavorful. In addition to brining, this turkey is brushed and basted with a savory compound butter that adds tremendous flavor to the meat and the pan drippings that will be used in the gravy. Be sure to use an instant-read thermometer to test for doneness, and let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves (preferably Turkish)
  • 5 to 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 large oranges, quartered

Turkey:

  • 1 (12 to 14-pound) fresh turkey (or thawed frozen turkey)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons poultry seasoning (or spice rub), or to taste
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large orange, quartered
  • 3 bay leaves (preferably Turkish)
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 recipe Roasted Shallot Thyme Butter, (recipe follows), brought to room temperature
  • 2 to 3 cups Turkey Stock, (recipe follows), or as needed


For the Brine: In a large, non-reactive stock pot, dissolve the salt and honey in 2 gallons of cold water.* Add the thyme, bay leaves, garlic, pepper and oranges.

For the Turkey: Remove the neck, giblets and liver from the cavity of the turkey; reserve the neck and giblets (refrigerated) for making giblet gravy; discard the liver. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cool running water.

Submerge the turkey in the brine; cover and refrigerate for 8 hours. Do not brine for longer than 8 hours, or the meat will become too salty. (Note: If your stock pot will not fit in the refrigerator, place the brine and turkey in a specialty brining bag; secure carefully to prevent leakage, and place in the refrigerator.)

Remove the turkey from the brine; rinse, then pat dry with paper towels. Trim off the neck skin and excess fat, then place, breast-side up, on a rack set over a pan to catch the juices. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 8 to 24 hours to allow the skin to dry.

Place the turkey on the counter for 1 hour to bring to room temperature before roasting. Season the inside of the turkey cavity with 1 tablespoon of the poultry seasoning (or spice rub). Stuff the turkey with the onion, celery, orange, bay leaves and thyme. Truss it securely, brush with Roasted Shallot Thyme Butter and sprinkle liberally with the remaining poultry seasoning (or spice rub). Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the bird on its back on a rack in a roasting pan; add turkey stock, about 1/2-inch deep, to the roasting pan. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325°F, turn the bird on its side and roast 1 hour more, basting with the Roasted Shallot Thyme Butter every 20 to 30 minutes.

Turn the bird on its other side, and repeat the process until the turkey is done, about 1 hour more. The turkey is done when the legs and thighs move up and down freely or when a meat thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh** reads about 165° to 175°F. Allow the turkey to stand for 20 minutes, loosely tented with foil, before carving.

Tips and Techniques
* For turkeys larger than 12 pounds, add 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of honey to every gallon of water added.

** Be sure not to hit the bone with the thermometer; this will give an untrue reading.

Serves 10 to 12

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Ultimate Holiday Turkey

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