Turkey Day

November 12, 2008  •  Meat & Poultry, Technique

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and many of you may be curious about how to brine a turkey. I started brining my turkey when I began purchasing heritage breed turkeys from Dallas Gilbert last year, and I’m now a convert. Here’s the recipe I developed last year- make sure your turkey is either fresh or fully thawed at least 2 days before Thanksgiving if you want to brine it.

Apple Cider Brined Herb Roasted Turkey
Serves 8

Once you taste the juicy flavor of a turkey that has been brined, you’ll be hooked on this easy cooking technique.

14 pounds turkey
1 brining bag
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 gallon apple cider
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup rosemary sprigs
1/4 cup black peppercorns
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon chives, minced
1 tablespoon tarragon, minced
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
Olive oil

Two days before cooking turkey, place whole turkey (neck and organs removed) into the brining bag. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and add salt; stir to dissolve. Transfer to a large bowl and add ice cubes, stirring until liquid is cooled. Add the apple cider, salt water, 1/2 gallon additional water, sage, rosemary and peppercorns to the turkey in the brining bag. Press the air out of the bag, seal, place in a large roasting pan, and refrigerate for two days. (The turkey should be fully covered in the brining liquid; add additional water if you have a larger turkey.)

When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the brining bag and discard the liquid. Rinse the turkey under cold running water and pat dry. Place the turkey into a roasting pan, breast side up. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a fork, combine the butter with the chives, tarragon and parsley to create a compound herb butter. Using your fingers, gently create a pocket under the breast skin on each side of the breast bone, taking care not to tear the skin. Rub half of the herb butter under the skin on each side, pressing the skin down to distribute the butter under the skin.

Turn the turkey breast side down in the pan and brush the skin with olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees for 1 hour, and then carefully turn the turkey to breast side up. Brush oil on the breast skin, reduce oven to 325 degrees F and continue to roast until turkey is fully cooked. The thigh should read 180 and the breast should read 165 using an instant read meat thermometer. If the skin is fully browned and the meat is not yet at temperature, tent with foil for the remaining cooking time. Let meat rest for 20-30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute.

TIP: Need to serve more people? Instead of cooking a larger turkey, cook two smaller turkeys. They are easier to handle – for brining, cooking, and serving – and cook faster as well.

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