If you ask me, it only takes 3 ingredients (well 4 if you count the water) to prepare a perfect roasted turkey. In other words the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, the most important part of the Thanksgiving feast. We only have roasted turkey in my home about 5 times a year so I’m definitely not perfect at preparing one. That is why this time around I turned to Cook’s Illustrated to follow their advice for brining and roasting turkey. I’m so glad I did as I achieved incredible results. I always thought it took plenty of fancy fresh herbs and a jumble of other ingredients to get a delicious turkey. That was definitely a misconception. If you ask me, some of those things can seemingly hide the delicious flavors of the turkey. All you need is a turkey, salt, water, a bit of butter along with a few easy steps and you’ll have a turkey that is moist, flavorful and tender with a perfectly golden, crispy skin. It’s likely that no one will even be reaching for the salt with this turkey. The brine get’s the job done. I think this will now be my go to Thanksgiving turkey recipe. Easy and delicious! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
After brining, for an extra crispy skin allow to air dry in refrigerator for 8 hours on top of a cooling rack set over a rimmed cookie sheet (optional).
If you don’t have a large roasting rack, you can use a large tin, if you don’t own a V-rack you can create one using two grates from a gas oven or two racks from a toaster oven. No matter what you use for the V-rack, just be sure to line it with foil and poke holes in the foil.
Brush both sides with 2 Tbsp melted butter, then roast breast side down first.
Perfectly crisp, golden skin, with a moist deliciously seasoned interior. A Thanksgiving Turkey to remember…
Brined and Roasted Turkey
- 1 (12 - 14 lb) untreated turkey, rinsed thoroughly*
- 1/2 - 1 cup Table salt , depending on brine time
- 4 Tbsp butter , melted
1. For the brine: for a 4 - 6 hour brine, dissolve 1 cup of table salt per 1 gallon of water. For a 12 - 14 hour brine, dissolve 1/2 cup of table salt per 1 gallon of water. Place turkey in an extra large food safe bag (such as a Reynolds Turkey Size Oven Bag), a large stockpot or a clean bucket. Pour enough of the salt water over turkey to completely cover (tie knot bag if using a bag) and refrigerate turkey for predetermined amount of time.
2. Before removing turkey from brine, adjust oven rack to lowest or second to lowest position (Cook's Illustrated stated "lowest" in their recipe, I actually went with second to lowest). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large V-rack with heavy duty aluminum foil or two layers of regular foil, and using a pairing knife poke 20 - 30 holes in foil. Set lined V-rack in a large roasting pan.
3. After soaking turkey in brine, remove from refrigerator and thoroughly rinse turkey under cold tap water. Using paper towels, pat turkey dry inside and out. With the breast side facing upward, tuck wingtips underneath the bottom side of turkey and tuck ends of drumsticks into skin at tail to secure**. Then brush turkey (breast side up) with 2 Tbsp melted butter, then rotate turkey and set breast-side down on prepared V-rack and brush opposite side with remaining 2 Tbsp melted butter. Roast turkey for 45 minutes (I upped mine to 1 hour because I personally don't like juicy poultry, just moist).
4. Carefully remove turkey in roasting pan from oven (and close oven door so the heat doesn't escape). Using clean kitchen towels or pot holders, lift turkey and rotate to opposite side - it should now be breast side up. Return turkey in roasting pan to oven and continue to roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer, and the thickest part of thigh registers 175 degrees, about 60 minutes (if you don't like juicy turkey you will definitely want to bake it longer). Remove from oven and transfer turkey to a carving board, allow turkey to rest 30 minutes. Carve and serve with freshly ground black pepper if desired (mine didn't need any salt).
*Do not use a pre-seasoned, self-basting or Kosher turkey.
**Or for an optional step if you prefer an extra crispy skin on your turkey you can air dry the turkey in the refrigerator. To do so, place brined and rinsed turkey on a cooling rack set over a rimmed cookie sheet and allow turkey to rest in refrigerator for at least 8 hours (so obviously you wont need to preheat oven until later). Then proceed with the recipe (in step 3, brushing with butter). Again this is an optional step and only needed if you want a an extra crispy skin.
Recipe Source: adapted from Cook's Illustrated All-Time Best Recipes, pg 40 - 41 "How to Brine and Roast Turkey" (can also be found here).