Turkey Recipe Options- For Defrosting, Brining, Rubbing and Roasting

Brine Recipe, shared by Shelterbelt Farm

Brining is more art than science – you may replace the sugar with honey or maple syrup, add apple cider, broth, beer, or coffee in place of some of the water, and add whatever spices or herbs you prefer. For best results, allow the turkey to soak in the brine for 18-24 hours before cooking – so make sure you have on hand a pot, cooler, tub, or other vessel for chilling and soaking the whole bird!

Here’s the very basic recipe. (Use these amounts as a ratio. You will likely need more than 1 gal. of water to fully cover the turkey, so adjust the other amounts accordingly):

  • 1          cup kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1/4       cup table sugar or brown sugar
  • 1          gallon water (or other liquid)
  • 5          cloves garlic, crushed or whole
  • 2-3       Tbs. dried oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary

1.      Combine water, salt, sugar, garlic, and herbs in a large pot and heat just until salt and sugar are dissolved.

2.      Let come back to room temperature (add ice cubes to cool faster if desired)

3.      Place turkey in a pot, tub, large plastic bag, or other vessel.

4.      Pour brine over it and cover. Refrigerate for 18-24 hrs. (this time of year, you can leave it outside overnight, but be sure to bring it in during the day if it gets warmer than 35-40 degrees outside)

5.      Remove turkey from brine and rinse well (otherwise you will have very salty gravy later!)

6.      Prepare turkey using your favorite cooking method. Stuffed turkeys weighing between 13 and 22 lbs will take 3.5-5 hrs to cook at 325 F. The safest way to ensure that it’s properly cooked is to use a meat thermometer. It should register 170-175 F in the thigh when done.

Roast Turkey With Butter Rub, from America's Test Kitchen

If roasting an 18- to 22-pound bird, double all of the ingredients for the herb paste except the black pepper; apply 2 tablespoons paste under the skin on each side of the turkey, 11⁄2 tablespoons paste in each breast pocket, 2 tablespoons inside the cavity, and the remaining paste on the turkey skin. Roast breast side down at 425 degrees for 1 hour, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, rotate the turkey breast side up, and continue to roast for about 2 hours. Let rest 35 to 40 minutes before carving.

If roasting a 14- to 18-pound bird, increase all of the ingredients for the herb paste (except the black pepper) by 50 percent; follow the instructions below for applying the paste under the skin, in the breast pockets, and in the cavity; use the remaining paste on the skin. Increase the second half of the roasting time (breast side up) to 1 hour, 15 minutes.

If you have the time and the refrigerator space, air-drying produces extremely crisp skin and is worth the effort. After brining, rinsing, and patting the turkey dry, place the turkey breast side up on a flat wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours. Proceed with the recipe.

Turkey and Brine
2 cups table salt
1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds gross weight), rinsed thoroughly, giblets and neck reserved for gravy (if making), tailpiece removed

Herb Paste
1-1/4 cups roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh sage leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
3/4 teaspoon grated zest from 1 lemon
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil

1. For the Turkey and Brine: Dissolve salt in 2 gallons cold water in large stockpot or clean bucket. Add turkey and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours.

2. Remove turkey from brine and rinse under cool running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place turkey breast side up on flat wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 30 minutes. Alternatively, air-dry turkey (see note above).

3. For the Herb Paste: Process parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, shallot, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in food processor until consistency of coarse paste, ten 2-second pulses. Add mustard and olive oil; continue to process until mixture forms smooth paste, ten to twelve 2-second pulses; scrape sides of processor bowl with rubber spatula after 5 pulses. Transfer mixture to small bowl.

4. To Prepare the Turkey: Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Line large V-rack with heavy-duty foil and use paring knife or skewer to poke 20 to 30 holes in foil; set V-rack in large roasting pan. Remove turkey from refrigerator and wipe away any water collected in baking sheet; set turkey breast side up on baking sheet.

5. Using hands, carefully loosen skin from meat of breasts, thigh, and drumsticks. Using fingers or spoon, slip 1-1⁄2 tablespoons paste under breast skin on each side of turkey. Using fingers, distribute paste under skin over breast, thigh, and drumstick meat.

6. Using sharp paring knife, cut 1-1⁄2-inch vertical slit into thickest part of each breast. Starting from top of incision, swing knife tip down to create 4- to 5-inch pocket within flesh. Place 1 tablespoon paste in pocket of each breast; using fingers, rub in thin, even layer.

7. Rub 1 tablespoon paste inside turkey cavity. Rotate turkey breast side down; apply half remaining herb paste to turkey skin; flip turkey breast side up and apply remaining herb paste to skin, pressing and patting to make paste adhere; reapply herb paste that falls onto baking sheet. Tuck wings behind back and tuck tips of drumsticks into skin at tail to secure.

8. To Roast the Turkey: Place turkey breast side down on prepared V-rack in roasting pan. Roast 45 minutes.

9. Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven (close oven door to retain oven heat). Using clean potholders (or wad of paper towels), rotate turkey breast side up. Continue to roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees and thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes longer. (Confirm temperature by inserting thermometer in both sides of bird.) Transfer turkey to carving board; let rest 30 minutes. Carve turkey and serve.

from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook