Let’s officially kick off the start of my favorite Thanksgiving Recipes.
And we can not talk about Thanksgiving without talking about Alton Brown.
That man is a genius. I mean seriously, is there any recipe he has not mastered?!
When I am looking for a hands down winner, I turn to Alton. I mean he gives every recipe his all and dissects it in his laboratory AKA kitchen.
So therefore, when I was faced to cook a turkey the first time on my own a few years back (I had tackled about every recipe BUT a turkey up to this point), I turned to Alton.
I had been hosting Thanksgiving since I was first married, but oddly enough my parents or in-laws always brought the turkey. They insisted it was the easiest thing to prepare and would rather I prepare all the sides and desserts. I thought this was fun, so I didn’t mind–the turkey was boring to me!!
However, after trying Alton’s brining technique for turkeys, the turkey was no longer boring–it was moist, tender and full of flavor. No offense, Mom and Dad, but my turkey was SO MUCH better than yours (and they agree and make it using my technique every year now!)
So I took Alton’s idea and put my own spin on it (for personal preference and ease.)
Alton Brown is a genius, but his recipes tend to be complex or require special equipment. I have perfected his technique for the average home cook and have come up with my own tools to get the job done that are budget friendly!
How to Brine A Turkey
Here is my cast of players in brining a turkey:
- An extra large Ziploc Big Bag (to hold turkey in brine). Some people use brining bags—I can never seem to find them. Some people use large buckets and place the turkey outside to keep cold overnight while it is in the brine–not me, I live in the south–it may be too warm for that bird to sit outside safely all night. So, this bag has been my perfect solution.
- During the fall months, I save all my scraps–carrot peels, onion peels, garlic peels, wilted herbs, rosemary, thyme, orange peels and apple cores/peels are my favorite to store in the freezer for a turkey brine.
- Brown Sugar: the sweetness is absorbed by the meat. Enough said.
- Kosher salt: Lots of salt–that is what flavors and tenderizes the meat. It is key!
- You will need water (or stock) and a large stock pan as well.
Steps to Brine A Turkey: (This is for a 14-16 pound turkey)
- 3 days before you are planning to cook your turkey, begin thawing in the refrigerator.
- Two days before cooking, dump your bag of scraps into your large stock pot.
- Add 1 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar.
- Throw in any fresh herbs you have as well that you want to use to flavor the bird (not necessary–I always have rosemary around that I add.)
- Cover the ingredients with water or stock, about 12 cups.(Common sense tells you stock is more flavorful, but don’t stress about it if you don’t have it!!)
- Bring to a boil and allow to simmer until salt and sugar have dissolved–about 30 minutes.
- Bring to room temperature and then refrigerate until night before you are roasting turkey.
- Place your thawed and cleaned out turkey into the Ziploc Bag.
- Place the turkey, inside the bag into the largest empty drawer in your refrigerator (it is better if it is on the bottom to ensure zero contamination of raw turkey juices to other food items.)
- Pour the brining liquid over the bird into the bag.
- Pour cold water in to cover the bird completely in liquid–this is about 1 gallon of cold water.
- Seal the bag and let the magic happen overnight! (And if you followed by tips, you don’t have to transport a large bag of liquid to the fridge–that can be a nightmare!
- The morning of roasting your feast, remove the drawer the Ziploc bag is in (you may need 2 people to carry the drawer depending on how often you lift weights!!) and place next to your sink.
- Ensuring that everything is removed from your sink and nearby areas (so no turkey juice is splattered on something that is meant to be eaten!!), drain the brine from the bag (leaving the large scraps in the bag to discard with ease with the bag).
- Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse.
- Place the turkey onto a large roasting pan.
- Bleach the heck out of everything and wash up!! You don’t want to experience food poisoning!
How to Roast a Turkey
- Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
- Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting.
- Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 15 minutes before carving.
NOW SAVOR THE BEST TURKEY YOU HAVE EVER HAD–PROMISE!!!
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