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Brined Whole Turkey

Brined Whole TurkeyWhether you fry, roast, grill or smoke a turkey, the process of brining makes the meat more tender, moist and flavorful.

Recipe Ingredients:

Brining Procedure:
1 (15-pound) whole turkey, (not self-basting or kosher) thawed, giblets and neck removed
2 cups table salt (do not substitute equal amounts of kosher salt)
2 gallons* icy cold water
4 cups packed brown sugar **
1/2 cup dried rosemary leaves
1/2 cup dried thyme leaves

Roasting Procedure:
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small stalk celery, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
As needed fresh fruit for garnish

Cooking Directions:

  1. For Brining Procedure: Rinse turkey in cool water.
  2. In a very large clean container (non-corrosive pan or stockpot such as stainless steel or glass or a food-grade plastic container), mix salt and water together until salt dissolves. Stir in brown sugar and spices, mix well until sugar dissolves.
  3. Totally submerge poultry in solution and store, covered, in refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 8 hours. Since brining does not preserve meat, the turkey must be kept below 40°F (5°C) throughout the entire brining process. Ice packs may also be used to keep turkey at a safe temperature of below 40°F (5°C).
  4. Remove turkey from brine. Discard brine. Thoroughly rinse the interior and exterior of the turkey by placing it on a wire rack and setting both rack and turkey in a clean, empty sink. Use cool water from the spray hose and rub gently to release the salt and sugar from the turkey.
  5. Pat skin and both interior cavities dry.
  6. For Roasting Procedure: In the cavity of turkey, place onion, carrot and celery.
  7. Brush turkey with melted butter.
  8. Roast turkey, breast side down, in a preheated 325°F (160°C) oven for 2 hours. During this time, baste legs and back twice with melted butter.
  9. Remove turkey from oven and protecting your hands, grasp turkey with several layers of clean paper towels at both ends, and turn turkey, breast side up.
  10. Return turkey to oven and continue to roast, basting twice with pan dripping. Continue to roast until internal temperature reaches 170°F (80°C) in the breast and 180°F (85°C) in the thigh. (Note: A brined turkey cooks slightly faster than an unbrined turkey, so check the internal temperature frequently.)
  11. Remove turkey from the oven and allow to stand for 20 minutes before carving.
  12. Transfer to a platter and garnish with fresh fruit.

Makes 22 servings.

*The ratio of water to salt is appropriate for a 15-pound turkey. If a larger or smaller turkey is brined, please calculate accordingly.
**Other combinations of herbs may be added including 6 to 8 bay leaves, 3 cloves garlic and 2 teaspoons black peppercorns. Or a HOT and spicy flavor may be achieved by the addition of 1 cup small dried red chile peppers.

Recipe and photograph provided courtesy of the National Turkey Federation.