The Best Roast Turkey Recipe Ever. Seriously.

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.


16-18 pound turkey (at least), fresh/Kosher if at all possible.

1C kosher salt
1/2C light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock, homemade or store-bought
1T black peppercorns, whole
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
1C water
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 leaves fresh sage
Canola oil

The night before, combine the 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. Remove the brine from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

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 needed, weight it down to ensure it’s completely covered in brine. Cover, place in the refrigerator (if using your ice chest, you can skip this step) for 8-16 hours, turning the bird once.

Set the oven rack to 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 safe. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the bird on the lowest level at 500F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and reduce heat to 350. Set the thermometer to 161F. A 16-18 pound turkey should take 2 to 2 1/2 hours to roast completely. (If you don’t have a probe thermometer, take temp at the 2 hour mark). Let the turkey rest on the counter, loosely covered with tin 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.


Recipe, courtesy of Alton Brown.

Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. (c) All right reserved, 2013.

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