Brining your Turkey
There are many ways to cook turkeys to get great flavor – roasted in the oven, smoked on the grill and even fried (not inside of course). Your turkey is a serious investment in time and money so why not try to get it as good as it can get? Regardless of the method of cooking you use, we recommend brining your turkey first.
To brine a bird you must start the night before it is cooked. You will need at least 10-12 hours of time, a large refrigerator or cooler packed with ice or ice packs and enough brine to cover the bird. Whatever container you choose, the turkey must have enough room to be turned, so it should be big. Both Reynolds (Oven Roasting Bags for Turkeys) and Ziploc (XL Storage Bag) make very large food safe resealable bags that are great for brining. Even a large black garbage bag works well (double bagged).
Apple Cider Brine | Adapted from “The Thanksgiving Table” by Diane Morgan, Chronicle,2001
This recipe makes enough brine for a 10-25 pound turkey and must be left in the brine for 12-24 hours for maximum flavor.
- 8 cups unsweetened apple cider
- 2/3 cups kosher salt
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 6 quarter-size slices un peeled fresh ginger
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns, crushed
- 2 tsp. whole allspice berries, crushed
- 6 cups ice-cold water
- 1 fresh or thawed Turkey
- 2 oranges, quartered
- 2 large plastic bags for the turkey
In a 3-4 quart saucepan on a medium heat, combine the cider, salt, sugar, ginger, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns and allspice and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve. Boil for about 3 minutes then remove rom the heat. Add 4 cups of the cold water and stir. Cool to room temperature.
Have a large roasting pan ready to hold the turkey. Place 1 plastic bag inside the other bag to create a double thickness. Place the double bag, open side up in the roasting pan.
Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey. Rinse the turkey in cold water, drain it and pat dry with paper towel.
Stuff the orange quarters in the main cavity of the bird. Fold back the bag about a third to form a collar around the bag. Place the turkey inside the bags and pour the brine mixture into the inner bag and over the bird. Add the remaining cold water and draw up the opening of the inside bag and try to squeeze out as much air as possible. Close with a twist tie. Repeat with the outer bag. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning the turkey 3-4 times during the brining process.
Just prior to roasting, remove the turkey from the brine. Discard the brine, bags and oranges and any spices remaining outside the bird and rinse with cold water and pat dry. Your turkey is now ready for cooking!
Roasting the Turkey
When is a turkey done but not over cooked? We refer you to the USDA site. They have wonderful information on storage, handling and cooking your turkey.
The recommended doneness is when the thermometer registers 180° in the thigh and 170° in the breast (unstuffed). Remember the turkey’s temperature will continue to rise a few degrees after being taken out of the oven.
Remember to subtract the weight of the giblets and neck from your roasting time as they can add up to a pound to the bird.
Roasting Times (For Unstuffed Birds Only) at 325°
We do not recommend stuffing your turkey as there could be potential problems with some ingredients not being fully cooked. Cook your stuffing separately. It will taste great!
- 8 – 12 pounds: 2-3/4 – 3 hours
- 12 – 14 pounds: 3 – 3-3/4 hours
- 14 – 18 pounds: 3-1/4 – 4-1/4 hours
- 18 – 20 pounds: 4-1/4 – 4.5 hours
- 20 – 24 pounds: 4.5 – 5 hours
Baste with juices as the turkey roasts.
Wood-Smoked Turkey | Food & Wine, contributed by Josh Vogel
Here is inspiration for those of you who like a smoked Turkey and if you have a Big Green Egg then you are in luck! If you try this let us know how it came out!
Josh Vogel’s smoker allows him to start cooking the bird as low as 130°, and then finish smoking at 180°, but other smokers can be almost impossible to keep that cool. This adapted recipe calls for a constant temperature of about 200°. Since times will vary based on smoker temperature, the only reliable way to judge doneness is by cooking the turkey until its inner thigh registers 165°. Make sure to have plenty of hardwood charcoal or wood on hand.
- 3 gallons water
- 1.5 cups fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 12 thyme sprigs
- 5 dried bay leaves
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
- One 10-pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved for another use
- 2 pounds cherry or other fruitwood chips, soaked in water overnight
- In a very large pot, combine the water, sea salt, maple syrup, thyme, bay leaves and garlic. Stir the brine until the salt is completely dissolved. Add the turkey, breast side down, top it with a plate to keep it submerged and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Light a hardwood charcoal or wood fire in the firebox of a smoker. Heat the smoker to 200°. Scatter some of the soaked wood chips around the coals; the chips should smolder but not flare. Set a drip pan filled with water on the bottom of the smoke box.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey and tie the legs together with string. Set the turkey over the drip pan. Smoke the turkey for about 5 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in an inner thigh registers 165°; monitor the coals throughout the smoking process and add more coals and/or wood, soaked chips and water as needed to maintain the temperature and smoke level. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let rest for 20 minutes before serving.