I’ve been making this turkey for Thanksgiving for years now, and it is such a favorite that I’ll volunteer to bring the turkey even when I’m not hosting.
Brines make turkey – which can sometimes be dry if not cooked correctly – dry and full of flavor. Note that for a brine to do its job, you have to use a fresh turkey. A frozen turkey has likely already been treated with a sodium/ pre-brine, so this won’t really “take” on a frozen bird.
To give credit where its due, this is a Pioneer Woman brine and roasting recipe, but she’s updated parts of her blog, and it can get a bit confusing going among all the posts to find the right instructions. So to be honest, this post is as much for me as it you so that I can finally have all the details in one place. And, some of my instructions are slightly modified based on my experience and how I prepare the turkey, but the bulk of this is definitely hers.
3 cups apple juice
3-4 springs rosemary, leaves stripped
5 cloves minced garlic (or 1 T. from a jar)
1.5 cups Kosher salt
2 cups brown sugar
3 t. peppercorns
5 bay leaves
3 oranges – peel only
water to fill your dutch oven (1.5-2 gallons)
5 gallon bucket
Large zip-lock bag
1 fresh turkey (not frozen)
1 orange (for zesting)
1 stick butter, softened
2 rosemary springs, leaves stripped & chopped
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
For a Thanksgiving turkey, begin on Tuesday afternoon or evening. Bring all the brine ingredients to a boil in a large pot and then allow to cool completely. Line a 5 gallon bucket with a large zip-lock bag. (This is for ease of clean up, and you’ll thank me profusely for this helpful hint.) Place the turkey in the bag (with or without giblets, your preference) and pour the cooled brine over it. Add more water if the turkey isn’t covered. Zip up the bag and refrigerate.
I’ll usually check on the turkey on Wednesday and make sure it is still emerged in the brine. I may turn the turkey a bit if there’s room.
Thursday morning, preheat oven to 275. Lift the whole bag out of the bucket, snip off a corner of the bag and let the brine drain. When all the liquid is gone, open the bag and run cold water over the turkey to rinse off the elements of the brine. (I don’t soak my turkey as PW suggests, and I’ve never had a salty turkey.) The bag can be tossed with all the mess inside!
Lift the turkey out of the bag and place on roasting pan breast side up. (Continue to clean off anything that sticks to the turkey.) Pat the turkey dry. If you haven’t already, remove giblet bag. Cross the legs and tie with kitchen twine. Cover turkey tightly with heavy foil.
Roast for 10 minutes per pound. While the turkey is roasting, prepare your seasoned butter mixture. Combine 1 stick of softened butter with the zest of one orange, chopped rosemary leaves, salt and pepper. (PW slices her orange rind into tiny strips. I’ve found that using orange zest is quicker to prepare and enhances the orange flavor. You can also do a little of both, as shown in the photo.)
After the first stage of roasting is over, remove foil and smear butter mixture all over the turkey. The turkey is hot – so be careful – but make sure you cover every bit of the turkey including all the crevices. Increase the oven temperature to 350.
Insert a meat thermometer and return the turkey to the oven uncovered. Baste the turkey every 20 minutes with the drippings in the bottom of the pan, and roast until the turkey reaches 165. (PW suggests a 20 lb turkey will take another 1.5 – 2 hours. I’m usually cooking smaller turkeys and so this usually takes 1 – 1.5 hours for me.)
Remove turkey from oven and cover with heavy foil again. Let it rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. Also, I think the orange and rosemary flavors make an exceptional gravy, so don’t waste the drippings! Enjoy what is likely to be the best turkey you’ve ever eaten.
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