I know, we all have our favorite recipes for the Thanksgiving turkey. Heck, I have at least 3 favorites myself. But this recipe, courtesy of Alton Brown, is hands-down the best. No basting, no sawdust-dry bird…simply the best.
Good Eats Roast Turkey
16-18 pound turkey, fresh if at all possible*
1C kosher salt
1/2C light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
1T black peppercorns
1 1/2t allspice berries
1 1/2t chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 leaves fresh sage
Combine the vegetable stock salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve the solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (If possible, to this the day before).
Early on the day, or very early Thanksgiving Day morning, combine the brine, water and ice in a 5 gallon bucket (note: I use my ice chest for this). Place the thawed turkey (innards removed, of course) breast side down in the brine. If necessary, weigh it down to ensure it’s completely covered in brine. Cover, and place in refrigerator (if using your ice chest, you don’t need to refrigerate) for 8-16 hours, turning the bird once.
Set an oven rack on the lowest level, then preheat your oven to 500F. Remove the bird from the brine and rinse in and out with cold water, paper towel dry.
Combine the apple, cinnamon stick and 1C water in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Now, add the aromatics to the turkey cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on the lowest level at 500F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and reduce the heat to 350F. Set the thermometer alarm to 161F. A 16-18 pound bird should take 2 to 2 1/2 hours to roast completely. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for at least 15 minutes before carving.
During the roasting process, do NOT open the door just to “take a look” and do NOT base. Then, enjoy.
*if you have a frozen turkey, start thawing it in your refrigerator at least 2 days prior.
Recipe, courtesy of Alton Brown
Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. (c) All rights reserved, 2012.