Turkey is always a big-to-do for the holidays. We search the internet far and wide every year to find how to make that perfect turkey that will meet all the demands of your holiday guests. Browned perfectly, garnished perfectly. Perfectly sitting pretty for it’s picture (you know one of the cool kids will be instagramming the entire meal). Then you want it to be moist, juicy meat for that self-proclaimed foodie. You want it to be done! – for everyone’s sake and you probably want it to be as hassle free as possible so that you can enjoy the holiday, drinking a glass (or two) of wine, and taking in all the crazy as you think to yourself, “we should all get together more often.” Remember these warm cozy feelings when you realize your house is a mess and the dish pile never ends…
That introduction is just want THIS turkey needed. This turkey is, I promise, the easiest way to accomplish all of your goals, even the glass of wine (or something stronger). This turkey is has hassle-free as you get for a homemade bird. It does take two days of planning, but it’s worth it.
The planning – make sure there is enough space in your refrigerator for your turkey. He will need to rest there for a couple of days. Also, make sure if your turkey was frozen, that he is not anymore – follow the directions on the package on how to safely defrost your bird or buy one that is not frozen (that’s what I do, to keep things simple). And lastly, make sure you have have a container to brine your turkey! – don’t worry I have step by step instructions on brining below but you will need a brining bag, large tupperware container or something else that I haven’t thought of that will keep your turkey submerged in the brining liquid.
The brining – brining is important to do for your holiday bird. Brining is a simple salt solution that will season, tenderize and provide additional juiciness to your meat – accomplishing your goals we set out to achieve. It also helps balance the cooking between the breast meat and the dark meat. Breast meat can quickly become dry and overcooked while you wait for the dark meat to reach the safe temperature. Brining prevents that from happening. Brining solution is a 6% salt to liquid ratio. Yes there is math AND science. Luckily, I figured it all out for a 12lb turkey – see the brining recipe below.
Holiday Turkey Brine
- 1 12 lb Turkey or smaller
- 1 Gallon of Water, 16 cups – divided into two
- 7.7 oz of Salt, just under 1 cup
Handful of: Peppercorns, fresh Thyme, fresh Parsley, and 1 bay leaf
Roughly chopped: 1/2 orange, 1/2 lemon, 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 celery stick
Clean out the turkey, remove the neck, and packet of giblets. Set aside.
In a large pot, add 8 cups of water, all of the salt and all of the ingredients (except the turkey).
Bring up to a boil until all of the salt is dissolved. Turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes.
Take off the heat.
Cool down the brining liquid. To the pot, add the rest of the 8 cups of ice- cold water.
Once the brining liquid is lukewarm or colder it’s ready!
In your brining bag or large container, put in your turkey and pour the brining solution over the turkey. The turkey should be fully submerged in the liquid.
Pro tip – place your bird breast side down so that it is easier to have them fully submerged.
Place your turkey bag on a sheet pan and put on the lowest level in your refrigerator (should your bag leak you don’t want it to drip onto anything else, that is why I suggest the sheet pan and the lowest level).
Let your bird brine 18-24 hours. See roasting instructions below.
The roasting – After your turkey had had it’s brine bath for a day, it’s time to roast it into something beautiful for your dinner table. Roasting a turkey slow and low allows for the meat to soak in (or is it up?) all of the flavors you seasoned it with. Also, it allows the skin to get a dark brown and crisp up. This dark brown color is called a maillard reaction which gives you that “seared” or “charred” flavor for your meat. It’s just another added layer of goodness for your taste buds.
Follow these easy steps below and it’ll come out perfect. It’ll be picture perfect brown, have that classic turkey seasoning and be amazingly juicy.
- 1 12 lb Turkey
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 orange
- one or two fresh springs of thyme and rosemary
- 1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
- Kitchen Twine
Take your turkey out of the brine, rinse off and pat dry, let it come up to room temperature or at least get the chill off of it.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
Stuff the cavity with the aromatics for seasoning (lemon, orange, herbs).
Divide your butter up, 1 TBSP and then 6 squares, 1/2 TBSP each.
Slowly and carefully pull the skin away from the meat of the breasts and stuff each side with 2 squares of the butter. See below.
Then near the same hole, you will do the same for the thighs, but only put in 1 square per leg.
The bird should have all 6 squares of butter underneath the skin, then with the remainder of the butter, you will want to spread it over the top of the skin. This will help create that wonderful maillard reaction and beautiful brown color.
After this step, you will need to take some twine (heavy duty thread) to truss the bird. I would give you step by step instructions but I think this is better taught by youtube – so quickly google the how to for this step! Don’t skip this step, it’s important to do so that your bird cooks evenly and holds it’s shape for your table presentation.
On place on your roasting rack in your roasting pan and put in your oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. This will help jump start the browning process. After 15 minutes, drop the temperature to 325 degrees.
Roast for 2 hours, which means, don’t mess with it. Do something else. We went to the park and played in the fall leaves
After 2 hours, take the turkey out, admire it, baste it.
Place a foil cover over the breasts to keep them from getting too brown.
Put him back in the over for another hour (total roasting time should be 3 hours and 15 minutes). Before you pull it out and pat yourself on the back TAKE HIS TEMPERATURE. But a meat thermometer in the deepest part of the breast meat without going through, it should register 165 F. Do this again in his thigh, making sure not to hit the bone, again it should be 165 F.
The resting – Take him out. Let him rest. It’s hard work roasting to perfection all day, he needs time to bounce back. Resting is as key as anything else, so do not skip this step. I know it’s hard to wait but trust me you should. Resting allows the juice to go back into the meat and allows the turkey to be evenly moist and flavorful. You should rest meat 1/3 of the amount of time you cook it, so this guy should rest for 1 hour. You can place foil over him to keep him warm (think marathon runner, you always see them wrapped up in foil blankets at the end… this is similar, and if you have ran a marathon, good job!).
You did it!!
Happy Holidays from my family to yours! Cheers!!