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Classic Roast Turkey

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The term "classic" is often associated to a minimally seasoned roast turkey. Many people have developed roast turkey recipes that involve cajun spices, honey glazing, lemon infusions, and other techniques that produces a turkey that sets them apart from the classic roast. Since this is our first Thanksgiving together, I thought I would start with the basics and reveal how I roast a turkey.

This recipe is for a 10 to 14 pound turkey. I will update for larger turkeys later. (I rushed this recipe out after roasting a turkey in the wee hours of the morning, so everyone could get a head start on planning for their turkey dinner. I'll correct any mistakes I may have made after the weekend.)

Before you even think about roasting the turkey, you'll need to budget enough time to thaw, brine, and dry the turkey. If you're purchasing a frozen turkey, allow at least 5 hours per pound of thawing time in the refrigerator. After the turkey has thawed, treat it as if it were fresh (for the purposes of this recipe). Remove the giblets and the neck (found inside the chest cavity). Prepare a brining solution of 1 cup table salt to 1 gallon water in a nonreactive container and soak the turkey in the solution in the refrigerator for four hours. (If your turkey has been infused with a solution, then reduce the salt content in your brine or soak it in a container filled with water.) Pour out the brining solution and rinse the turkey. One convenient way to do this is to position a rack in the sink and place the turkey on the rack to rinse. After the turkey has been rinsed, let it dry by placing it on a rack on a sheet pan in the refrigerator overnight (or for eight hours). Alternatively, use a blow drier on cool setting (no heat) to blow over the skin of the turkey until dry.

Now that the turkey is ready to go, preheat your oven to 400°F. Chop up two medium onions, five carrots, and two celery ribs. Also melt 3 tablespoons butter and set aside 2 tablespoons dried thyme (or two sprigs of fresh thyme). Quantity and even chopping is not that important for this recipe, so feel free to prepare these steps quickly to save time.

From the chopped vegetables, take about half an onion, a carrot, and a half celery rib and combine them with about 1 tsp. thyme and a tablespoon of melted butter. Mix them until evenly distributed.

Throw the prepared vegetables (from the previous step) inside the turkey. Now, tie up the turkey's wings and legs so they will cook evenly. Take a 5 foot (1.5 m) long piece of kitchen twine and tie the drumsticks together as shown.

Loop the twine around the turkey and over the wings.

At the head of the turkey, tie a knot over the flap of skin to hold everything in place.

Place the rest of vegetables and thyme in a roasting pan. If you don't have a roasting pan, you can use a disposable aluminum foil roasting pan from the supermarket. Pour one cup water into the pan and place a V Rack into the pan. Brush breast side of the turkey with butter. Place the turkey on the V rack with the breast side facing down. Brush the back with butter. Place in a 400°F oven.

We're roasting this turkey upside down (usually turkeys are roasted breast up) to cook the breasts at a slower rate. Starting breast side down, gives the legs a head start on cooking. This is desirable because drumsticks and thighs need to be cooked to a higher temperature (about 170°F) in order to remove any trace of pink flesh. The breasts would become very dry and unpalatable if cooked to temperatures as high as the legs.

After 45 minutes, remove the turkey from the oven and baste it with the juices from the roasting pan. I've tried to come up with an easy way to do this without a turkey baster, but I was unable to. Use a turkey baster to reach in between the rungs of the rack and suck up some juices and squirt it over the turkey. Then rotate the turkey onto its side (with a leg sticking up) and brush some more butter on. Return to oven for fifteen more minutes, then baste again and rotate onto other side. Roast for fifteen minutes. Roasting the turkey on its sides lets the sides brown (for better presentation). If you don't care about even browning, you can skip these two rotations and just prolong the breast down roasting by thirty minutes. (You may want to baste once after the 45 minute mark, though.)

Now, rotate the turkey so it is breast side up. Baste again and brush on the remaining butter. Roast for thirty more minutes and then start to check the temperature every ten minutes. The turkey is done when an instant read thermometer thrust into the breast reads 165°F.

The deepest part of the thigh should read between 170°F to 175°F. Remember that the only way to know if your turkey is both safe to eat and not overcooked is with an accurate digital thermometer.

Remove the turkey and allow it to rest for twenty or thirty minutes.

Carving (a quick synopsis)

Place the turkey breast side up on a carving board.

Cut the skin between the thigh and the body of the turkey. Cut in while using a fork to peel the leg away from the body.

Cut through the joint to remove the thigh and drumstick. Place the leg flat on a cutting board. Separate the thigh from the drumstick by cutting through the joint. Cut the meat off the sides of the thigh bone. Cut the meat off the drumstick. Repeat for the other leg.

Remove the wings by pulling them away from the body and thrusting a knife through the joint to sever. Once all the limbs have been removed, cut through the skin along the keel bone.

Angle the blade out a little and cut down along the bone to remove the breast. Do the same to the other side.

Cut the breast meat against the grain into thin slices.

Arrange however you like and serve with those accompaniments that are traditional to your family. (For a nice gravy that goes with this turkey, see Test Recipes: Giblet Pan Gravy.)

Classic Roast Turkey (serves 14)
Prepared Turkey
Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C)
12 lb. turkey, thawed or freshbrinestuffbrush on both sidesplace on V-rack in panroast until breast 165°F (74°C), thigh 170°F (77°C)
1/2 onion, choppedmix
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 celery rib, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbs. butter, melted
1 Tbs. butter, melted
1-1/2 onion, choppedplace in roasting pan
4 carrots, chopped
1-1/2 celery rib, chopped
5 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup water

Roasting table
Positionbreast downleg upother leg upbreast up
Copyright Michael Chu 2004
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Written by Michael Chu
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148 comments on Classic Roast Turkey:(Post a comment)

On October 19, 2005 at 02:23 PM, Paul (guest) said...
First, basting will just lengthen the cooking time and doesn't really do anything for moistness of the meat. Brining the turkey, like AB does, is a much better way of getting the bird nice and juicy. Also, I'd suggest covering the breast meat with aluminum foil to keep it from cooking too quickly and drying out. Finally, I'd suggest getting an unglazed quarry tile or three to put in the oven if you insist on basting it. They'll help keep it at temperature. Oh, and get a remote probe thermometer with an alarm, so you can check the temp without wasting thermal energy.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:33 PM, Michael Chu said...
Yes, brining is a step that cannot be skipped. I noticed that in my rush on Friday, I did not include brining in the recipe summary. (Another reason to read the full article!)

I baste not for juiciness (that's guaranteed by the brining and rotations), but for flavor. Without basting, the skin and thin layer of surface meat is not flavorful enough for me. I found that not using the turkey drippings and just using butter creates too much butter flavor (although the skin becomes a wonderful color and and smells great). Using both butter and turkey drippings makes the outer layer of the turkey have excellent flavoring and color.

I should also emphasize that you should take the turkey out of the oven before basting it. No matter how fast you are at basting and rotating, it's much better to have the turkey out of the oven (and the oven door closed, of course) while doing this operation.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:34 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I've found starting the turkey at 500 for 20 minutes and then dialing down to 375 gives a crispy skin without a leg vs. breast doneness problem.

If you really want to baste, try cutting a slit through the skin lengthwise along the top of the breast, it gives the basting juices somewere to go.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:34 PM, Tito (guest) said...
Ah yes, the annual turkey war.

I notice you have a bread baking stone in the bottom of the oven, and this will go a long way to maintaining thermal energy - as was suggested above via the method of unglazed tiles.

The basting question os a tough one. I made three turkeys last year by the Alton Brown method and the meat was as good as I have ever tasted. I agree the skin (particularly the area under the foil breastplate) did leave a little to be desired. It never got to that "crackling good" stage. The breast plate method does save you from having to do turkey calisthenics (the flip-flop).

If you do not have a V rack you can use a tin foil rope - as outlined by AB.

Stuffing the turkey is, of course, verboten.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:35 PM, an anonymous reader said...
"Prepare a brining solution of 1 cup table salt to 1 gallon water in a nonreactive container "

Just a question on brining. Do I just put salt and water and that's it? Do I need to bring it to a boil first and then cool it?

Also, is alumnium a "nonreactive" container? Or would I need to buy a huge plastic container?

On October 19, 2005 at 02:38 PM, an anonymous reader said...
brining -->

Also, Aluminium is reactive, plastic is probably best, however there are alternatives, but for some reason I'm drawing a blank as to what would fit a giant turkey..

On October 19, 2005 at 02:39 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I was told by a chef at a cooking school that "non-reactive" means glass. I imagine ceramic would also be non-reactive. Now, where to find a non-reactive container large enough to soak an 18 lb. turkey?

Stuffing the bird is verboten? Why?

On October 19, 2005 at 02:40 PM, fencepost (guest) said...
Stuffing the turkey before roasting it is bad because it makes it take longer to cook fully. If the body cavity is filled with stuffing you end up with either a fully-cooked turkey with an overcooked breast or you end up with the interior and stuffing undercooked and soaked with possibly undercooked turkey juices.

Cook the stuffing separately; if it needs to be in the turkey at the table then stuff it in while you're in the kitchen.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:40 PM, Michael Chu said...
re: Nonreactive containers

I use stainless steel or plastic for brining turkeys. A large plastic tupperware bin placed in the refrigerator with brining solution for a couple hours before brining the turkey. Or, you can use a portable ice chest filled with brining solution and packets of frozen ice in bags if your containers don't fit in your fridge.

Glass is also nonreactive, but I don't know if anyone makes a glass container large enough for a decent sized turkey. It'll be really heavy too.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:40 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Stuffing is verboten because Salmonella is not your friend.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:40 PM, Michael Chu said...
re: typo

Thanks for pointing out the typo (quarts vs. gallons). I fixed it.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:41 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Just wanted to post saying that I tried your receipe and it was a success. A perfect turkey! My friends really enjoyed it.

Thank you.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:42 PM, MJB (guest) said...
Has anyone ever used a roaster, such as the GE 18 quart roaster oven?

Any suggestions specific to this appliance would be appreciated?

On October 19, 2005 at 02:43 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I use these direction but on a Webber grill, turning the turkey as suggested, fantasticl

On October 19, 2005 at 02:44 PM, BlueMike (guest) said...
As for the non-reactive container they are referring to, it generally means no aluminum or copper. Stainless steel and plastic work very well.

I generally prepare a turkey or turkey breasts every couple of months or so and have found that a 5-gallon paint-bucket works wonderfully. They can be found in almost any hardware or home-improvement store for under $10. And they come with tight-fitting lids which work very well when transporting the brined bird. These will handle a 10-18 lb bird with plenty of room for the necessary ice (since this will not fit into most people's refrigerator).

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

On October 19, 2005 at 02:44 PM, an anonymous reader said...
re: non reactive containers.

I am on my 2nd brined and grilled bird. A paint bucket from the hardware store does an excellent job. A different color than the buckets used for sample collection so you don't get them mixed up.

Ice bags are a no-no. Have you read what they contain? I know dilution is solution but I really don't want to take chances on poisonng my bird.
One last word on food safety, The basic mantra of the food scientist, Life ( campy, salmonella, etc. ) begins at 40 F and ends at 16O F. Ice and a lid will maintain this overnite. Remember to allow for the extra volume when preparing brine.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:46 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Posting to say I pretty much went by this exact recipe. It was great! Too bad turkey has no taste but that's another matter.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:47 PM, Paul (guest) said...
I don't make the turkey for Thanksgiving, but I do make it for Xmas, and here's how I brine it:

Starting with a frozen bird (the kind you get for free from the supermarket around Thanksgiving), make the brine and pour it into your bucket. Remove the turkey from the bag and submerge it in the brine. Then add ice and your lid.

Put this somewhere like a garage (cool, but not cold) 48 hours before you want to cook the bird. Halfway through the brining, flip the bird.

You should have a gently thawed bird that's chock full of briney goodness.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:48 PM, Karen (guest) said...
Michael, I found 400 degrees to be way too hot. The turkey turned out fine, but there were no juices. The vegetables charred. We had nothing to make gravy with.

Did I misread something?

On October 19, 2005 at 02:48 PM, Michael Chu said...
re: juices

It's good that the turkey turned out fine... now to salvage the juices. If you have a large pan (one big enough for a 25 pound or larger turkey) then you'll probably need more than 1 cup of water to start in the pan. (The larger pan allows the water to spread out thinly and it will evaporate faster.) The exact quantity of water is not that important, just don't pour in a gallon or something. While checking on the turkey, if the water seems to be almost evaporated, add another cup (or more if you have a larger pan), to keep the drippings from burning. Don't worry too much about the liquid quantity even if almost all the water has evaporated, you'll be deglazing the pan for the gravy later. Just don't let it burn.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:49 PM, an anonymous reader said...
in the fresh vs frozen debate, one website discusses how fresh birds are aged to promote tenderness while frozen birds are not.

can anyone confirm this? I prepared a fresh turkey a few months ago (not brined), and it was fabulous! A couple of days ago i brined a utility grade turkey and it was dry and tough ( i also think i didnt defrost it long enough).

before i spend money on a frozen bird again, i will look for a fresh one.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:49 PM, an anonymous reader said...
To get the thigh and the leg to cook evenly and not dry out the breast meat I would suggest that you don't truss the bird. Stuffing the turkey is ok as long as the stuffing and the bird are either cold or at room temperature and stuff the turkey just before it is placed in the oven. NEVER put warm stuffing in a cold bird or stuff it the night before. Lastly remove the stuffing when the bird is done. It is true that stuffing will increase the cooking time. The bird must rest for about 30 minutes when it is removed from the oven so that the juices can be redistributed throughout the meat. Just flip it over on the breast during the resting period and the white meat will be moist.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:50 PM, Lori (guest) said...
I know people don't usually think about turkey this time of the year (August), but since I love to eat turkey anytime, I thought I would post a few things I've found helpful.

I brine the turkey in a canner. (In case you aren't familiar with canning, a canner is a big metal pot, about 15" high and 18" in diameter--I'm estimating--used to sterilize and vacuum pack jars. It's made of enamel coated steel.) It does not fit in the refrigerator, so in the winter, I leave the canner outdoors out of the sun with the lid taped on.

During warmer months, I buy just a turkey breast and brine it in a big
stainless steel pot that does fit in the refrigerator.

I roast the turkey in a Reynolds oven bag. It keeps the bird moist and seems to reduce cooking time.

One way to give a bird a tan is to baste it with balsamic vinegar 15 minutes before it's done. It does not affect the flavor.

Or I just roast a duck. (This is what I serve for Thanksgiving when it's held at my house.) It's more expensive, but it's so moist and tasty that it needs no special treatment except for the balsamic vinegar.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:50 PM, an anonymous reader said...
MJB: I use that type of roaster oven every year. Follow the directions in the little book -- because the oven is smaller and tigher your turkey will not brown, but it will be amazingly moist, and falling off the bone tender. Plan to cut it up in the kitchen and serve with juice on a big platter.

On October 19, 2005 at 02:50 PM, Joshua (guest) said...
I brine my turkey and then before sending it into the oven, I use a disposable needle and syringe to inject stock and melted butter inot the turkey's breast and thighs. You might want to cover the end of the wings and legs with aluminium foil so that they do not charr. Covering with an aluminium tent in the frist 45 minutes helps.

On November 03, 2005 at 09:09 PM, eltonyo said...
i agree with most of the tricks mentioned in this thread, especially with a flipped turkey (in a V-rack) for the first part of cooking.... but in order to get a really nice crisp crust, i find that separating the skin from the turkey (carefully), and rubbing some herbed butter into the meat (under the skin), not only helps flavor the meat, but because the skin is pulled up from the bird, it will crisp up much better by rendering some of the fat.

i do the same with a roasted chicken, of course.

btw... i'm a newbie... nice ya got here! :)

On November 12, 2005 at 12:15 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I have read all of the posts on roasting a turkey. I have been roasting them for 32 years. My mother-inlaw was a Penn. Dutch cook. She taught me to wash the thawed bird inside and out, pat dry and then rub butter inside and out, salt with coarse Kosher salt inside and out. At this point she always stuffed with her special holdiay stuffing, then she tied the legs back togetherr. Placing it then in a foil lined roaster she layed it in back side down. She then covered the breast and legs with good bacon and a heavy layer of foil. She roasted it on low heat about 300 thru the night before Thanksgiving or Christmas, putting it on about 10pm. She would get up and baste a few times with its own juices that leaked out in the roaster and close it back up with the foil everytime. The smell will have all those in the house floating thru the air like Wimpy on the old Popeye cartoons... At around 6 or 7 it is usually quite done (she checked by the looseness of the legs) she again kept it covered with the foil and the roaster lid. It would rest on the stove while the rest of the cooking got underway. By about noon she would warm it again in the oven and soon Thanksgiving was on the table in all of its glory. I don't remember one bad turkey or a dry turkey. It was always perfect. She always bought a Butterball. I have always cooked mine the same way and I have never had a problem. I have never eaten a brined turkey but I want to try it with a breast. I saw Emeril brine one and he had spices in his brine as well as Kosher salt. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! (Gwen in Indiana)

On November 15, 2005 at 01:34 PM, artwoman1 (guest) said...
Subject: larger birds
I am having 16 big eaters for TG. I have ordered a Kosher bird. It's already brined. How would you alter the cooking times for a 20 lb. bird? Do I figure by percentages? A 20 lb bird is roughly 40% larger than a 14 lb bird so is the time 40% longer? What do you recommend?

Also I loosen the skin over the breast and insert some the fat from around the cavity between the skin and the breast meat and it helps keep the breast moist. You can also insert herbed butter or herb the chunks of turkey fat.

I have used the rotation method before on a slightly smaller bird and found it very awkward to turn. Any tips?

I am going to make the turkey unstuffed this year and will remove the boniest part of the wing to place on top of my stuffing for a more in-the-bird taste. I'll let you know how that works.

On November 16, 2005 at 08:50 PM, rymetime (guest) said...
Subject: Any Truth to This?
I have heard it said that there is something in turkeys that contributes to drowsiness after eating. Does anyone know if that is fact, and if so, what is the name of the substance?

On November 17, 2005 at 12:24 PM, artwoman1 (guest) said...
Subject: drowsiness after eating turkey
The substance is tryptothan. I'm not sure this spelling is correct.

This is the substance that allows the family to do world-class beached whale imitations.

Some how those charged with the clean-up seem to be immune to its effects.

On November 17, 2005 at 09:14 PM, an anonymous reader said...
i read these posts with a smile...what a bunch of geeks. cooking a turkey is simple, nothing to it...but brining it is clearly required for juciness. by the way, im was trained at the CIA :lol:

On November 19, 2005 at 03:49 PM, futureboy (guest) said...
Subject: Sleepy turkey myth
About the substance in turkey that supposedly makes you sleepy, it's called L-Tryptophan, but it's present in a lot of things. There's more of it in chicken than turkey, and doctors consider the sleepiness due to L-Tryptophan to be a myth. See here:

On November 21, 2005 at 12:52 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: bacon bacon bacon!
i read a lot of tips that suggest placing thick bacon strips on the turkey's breast to add to the moisture and flavor. The strips are removed well before the turkey is done. Anyone tried this?

Take a look at:

On November 22, 2005 at 03:30 PM, guest (guest) said...
Subject: to brine or not
I have never had a brined turkey. I planning to slow roast in a roaster oven. What exactly is the advantage of brining?

Sandra in Nevada

On November 22, 2005 at 05:25 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: to brine or not
guest wrote:
I have never had a brined turkey. I planning to slow roast in a roaster oven. What exactly is the advantage of brining?

Brining not only adds flavor to the turkey meat, but it "loosens up" the protein so it can hold more water during the cooking process. The end result is that you have a juicier roast.

For more information, see Kitchen Notes: Brining

On November 23, 2005 at 11:16 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: roasting vs brining
I never brine my turkey as my family and friends HATE the taste. I always roast in a roaster oven with about the same method you use. I find roasting seals in more flavor than brining could ever add! Thanks for letting me vent! lol

On November 23, 2005 at 11:37 PM, Gio (guest) said...
Subject: Roast Turkey
Please, what is the correct term: Roast Turkey or Roasted Turkey?


On November 24, 2005 at 12:54 AM, dingerlily (guest) said...
Subject: brining made easy
Hello,I have brined a couple of turkeys!! They were delicious.I found that putting a garbage bag in an ice cooler is an easy way to brine!!
marty in Nevada

On November 24, 2005 at 02:58 AM, Nancy_8805 (guest) said...
Subject: Really big Turkey
This year we managed to get a 40lb turkey. Talk about huge! We arent sure how to cook it. I was looking for reccomendations on cooking turkey and i cant find any guides that go over 25lbs :)

Nancy From Arizona

On November 24, 2005 at 01:56 PM, haute_sauce (guest) said...
Subject: brining the bird
While I might be true that I am an engineer, and a trained chef (CCA), I am also a big fan of pre-brined kosher birds (Empire is my weapon of choice). And in a review of roasting chickens (ok, different bird), it came out on top in 'Cooks Illustrated' testing (i think that was the mag), above free range, organic, etc. Call me lazy !

On November 24, 2005 at 02:49 PM, guest (guest) said...
Subject: brining container
I've used Alton Brown's method for the past several years now and it always works beautifully. As to the container - a giant, non-reactive container that I've found works well - no matter how large the bird - is a good quality garbage bag. It's clean and all the air can be pressed out so that the bird doesn't have to be flipped. Rather than try to refrigerate it, I put the bag in a cooler with plenty of ice and keep it in the garage or back porch. :)

On December 14, 2005 at 06:13 PM, Jen (guest) said...
Subject: Thanks
Wow, who knew there could be so much to do. I have never brined, split the skin or anything beyond cleaning, coating with butter and seasonings, thrown in a roasting pan and covered with foil completley for basting and always has turned out great. Will have to try some of these suggestions! My step mother tried the slow cook foil bag last year and that was great two, she did that up side down.

On March 02, 2006 at 07:53 PM, Liz in LA (guest) said...
Subject: Brining a Turkey
When you're ready to brine your turkey, put a couple of those really big trash bags into a styrofoam cooler that you know is big enough to hold the turkey. Put the turkey in the bag(s), pour the brine solution over the turkey, close the bags up, place ice on top and put the cooler lid on. The whole kaboodle can brine away in the garage or on the back porch. And no messy cleanup!

On March 17, 2006 at 11:11 AM, (guest) said...
Subject: No plastic garbage bags for brining or food storage
Food-safe plastics are those which do not leach into the food. All the colored garbage bags are not food-safe, and the only white ones the manufacturers have described as food safe (and this was some years back) were the smallest white Glad brand trash bags (just a few quarts). Ziplock is making very large clear storage bags now- please don't use regular trash bags for brining or other food storage uses.

On March 22, 2006 at 06:00 PM, Jay Harbath (guest) said...
Subject: Roast Turkey
When I roast a turkey in the oven, I always use one of those clear plastic, disposable cooking bags. I stuff the turkey and set it on top of a bed of carrots, sweet potatoes, baby redskin potatoes, onions and mushrooms. Basically, it becomes a meal in a bag. I add about a half inch of water to the bottom of the bag and the juice becomes a great soup base. You will never have a dry turkey that way, it is steamed as it cooks.

I also admit that I haven't cooked a turkey like that in a while since I started using Mr. Ronco's Showtime™ Professional Rotisserie. Shake some cajun seasoning on the skin and you will have a fabulous bird. It is on a par with deep frying in peanut oil, without the mess involved with that process. Mr. Ronco also does a fabulous job with those big 8-10 pound chickens, and you get more wings and legs for the hungry troops than a single 14 pound turkey.

On October 24, 2006 at 04:30 AM, Laily (guest) (guest) said...
Subject: Bags large enough to brine
I just saw that the Williams-Sonoma website is selling plastic bags made specifically for brining turkeys up to 23 lbs (If I remember it right). The bag is food-safe and resembles a huge ziploc bag, also has a special shape in the bottom so the bag can stand upright in your fridge. Sounds like a pretty good idea, except it's not exactly cheap. The bags cost $15USD for a pair.

(Am not a spokesperspon for WS, but I simply thought you might want to see it, after reading that you've been using all kinds of things to contain turkeys in brine).

If someone uses one, please post your experience!! (I'd love to give it a try, except I live in Mexico and WS doesn't deliver here...).

Here is the link for the Brining Bags

Huge CFE fan in Mexico

On November 01, 2006 at 12:31 PM, val (guest) said...
Subject: Food Safe Plastic
I cringe whenever I hear someone brining a turkey in a garbage bag, new wastebasket, or paint bucket. In the past I have done them in a crock, my canner, or an ice chest.

Now you can find turkey brining bags in stores. Williams-Sonoma sells two large zip lock brining bags for $10. Otherwise I would suggest lining the container with a food safe plastic bag. I am all for minimizing consumption of leached chemicals.

On November 08, 2006 at 12:47 PM, Moey (guest) said...
Subject: Re: Roasting Turkeys
I was interested in reading the comments on this forum. I have been roasting turkeys for 50+ years and I have stuffed almost every one of them. I am careful in preparation of the stuffing, make sure it is room temperature when I stuff and cook to temperature. I have never had a sick person yet and the turkey is very flavorful.

Just my opinion, but I do not like brined turkeys at all. We tried it two years ago and said we would never do it again. I really do not like undone appearing turkey that is very moist, it always tastes raw to me. But that is just my personal preference. GOod helps here for roasting. Thanks. Moey

On November 09, 2006 at 07:59 PM, Gus Smith (guest) said...
Subject: roasting a REALLY big bird
Although I've been roasting turkeys successfully for years I wondered what you all thought about REALLY big birds. I mean 45 # big. We grow our own and though I've handed them off to friends, I've never done one of the big toms myself. Any thoughts? Obviously flipping becomes a problem but that is my prefered method and I'll have some beefy family members help with welder's gloves or something.

Any thoughts on time? Oh, and yes, I did measure the oven, this time~ been there, done that one.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

On November 09, 2006 at 09:29 PM, needybrain (guest) said...
Subject: What type of turkey is best?
What type of turkey is best to buy? Hoka? All natural? Fresh? Frozen? Do they all benefit from brining?

On November 10, 2006 at 06:14 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: roasting turkey
When I roast my turkey breast down, the v-shape rack makes my turkey looks funny when I turn it over. Any suggestions?

On November 16, 2006 at 01:47 PM, Bryce from PA (guest) said...
Subject: Cooking one today
Looks like this thread picks back up in November (I wonder why)...

Anyways, thanks for all the Grassroots tips on the roasting of Turkeys. I am having a few friends over tonight for some turkey, and needed some ideas. After reading this thread, it made me realize something...

I forgot the aluminum foil...

Thanks for the ideas.

On November 16, 2006 at 03:19 PM, confused (guest) said...
i am so stinking confused. 8| this will be my first turkey, for the whole family - 20 of us - and i'd really like to NOT screw it up. baste, don't baste, breast up, breast down, cover, don't cover. AHHH! maybe i'll just grill turkey burgers. All kidding aside, while i am not an engineer, i do tend to think like one and this site has been the MOST helpful so far! Do any of you poultry experts out there have that "set it and forget it" mentality that i keep running across??? Will it work or will the sucker dry up and evaporate leaving a small pile of bones?

On November 17, 2006 at 01:02 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: re: food-safe plastic
:shock: Nooo.. don't use plain old garbage bags to brine the turkey!

Last year, I put a big roasting bag in my sink, and loaded the bird into it. Once it was settled, I poured in the brine, squeezed all the air bubbles out, and sealed the bag. I packed ice around the whole thing and let it sit the whole morning, then roasted it like usual, and it came out great. Good luck with all your turkeys! -K3

On November 17, 2006 at 02:06 AM, Tracy (guest) said...
Subject: Bird for friends
Wow!! This site make me rethink how I have cooked turkeys the past few years... I have always used the foil method and put butter and a few seasoning under the skins method.. I also like to put good smelling things in and around the turke.. What can I say... the smell is what gets me!!!!! I love the look when company walks in and starts drooling!! This year I have noticed the v shaped rack.... Dont know if I will try it or not?
I hope every one has a great Turkey Feast!!

On November 19, 2006 at 05:31 PM, Guest (guest) said...
Subject: Stuffing
Here is a different way to incorporate stuffing and reduce the likelihood of drying out the breast. If you separate the skin underneath the breast with your fingers or a long spoon and then put some of the stuffing underneath the breast will cook slower and also not dry out. The bird looks a little funny (like it's on steroids) but this has worked very well for me the last 10 years. I've also noticed that everyone wants the stuffing underneath the skin than the stuffing cooked separately. It's more moist and tasty. I still brine the turkey though.

I've also tried cooking upside down and turning after about 45 minutes but you'll end up with a very funny bumpy looking turkey as the stuffing compressing under the v grate bars. But if you don't care about looks this is also possibility.

On November 19, 2006 at 10:54 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: organic, flash-frozen bird--do I need to brine?
I have a 15 lb. organic turkey that was flash-frozen. I'm told that flash-frozen birds should taste like a fresh bird, and I understand that an organic bird should have a different flavor than a non-organic bird. I want this turkey to be very special, and I'm afraid that brining may be too much flavor (or too much moisture). What are your thoughts?

On November 20, 2006 at 12:04 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: brined fresh turkey
The fresh birds (flash frozen for shipping) are the best. I agree with previous posters that all birds can benefit from brine. The bird can defrost during the overnight brining time.

I use one of those turkey roasting bags, place the turkey in, pour in the cold brine with some ice cubes and twist it closed. Then I place it in its roasting pan in the fridge.

This year I am making my turkey at my grandparents, 7 hours away. I'm going to try to drive and brine. I think an ice chest filled with ice and the turkey bag snug in the middle will work great.

Great in the brine: fresh rosemary sprigs, sliced oranges and peppercorns.

For my first turkey I made herbed olive oil with fresh herbs and orange zest and juice and rubbed it between the skin and meat. I think that made a big difference in the flavor.

Good luck with your special turkey!

On November 20, 2006 at 01:51 AM, sw (guest) said...
Subject: roaster ovens
I have not seen anything about using a roaster oven for TG turkeys on this site. Is it a taboo to use one? I just purchased one for a steal and was excited to have my oven for other foods. But now I am apprehensive. What do you think? Also, I am under the impression that the bird wil be more moist but less brown. I sure like a crispy skin. Do you think removing the juices the last 1/2 hour and turning up the temp wil accomplish this?

On November 20, 2006 at 11:17 AM, doron (guest) said...
Subject: old timey reciepe
Whatever happened to the old timey way of cooking the bird slowly and for a long time? I know it is not recomended but the turkey I am going to have at Thanksgiving will normally be cooked for around 12 -15 hrs at 200 - 225 and will not only have an internal temp of at least 185 but will also be the moistest one you have ever eaten. Typically it goes in at around 9 in the evening and comes out at noon next day. No one has ever gotten sick. Plus as an engineer I appreciate the ease of preparation - put it in the oven and dont mess with it.

On November 20, 2006 at 05:07 PM, shannon (guest) said...
Subject: oven bags.......good or bad idea?????
Hey everybody! Awesome tips here! I'd love to hear some thoughts on this strategy.......I've been having some health problems, so I'm trying to make Thanksgiving as easy as possible on myself this year. I'm thinking of trying a Reynolds oven bag. I'm thinking it will make cleanup much easier. And maybe I won't even need to brine. But, man, I'd hate to screw up the main meal of the year, just because of a chronic pain issue!!! I've heard that if you cut open the bag in the last half hour or so of cooking, the skin will crisp. Anybody have any thoughts or advice for me?

Thanks, and I hope you all have a great day!

On November 20, 2006 at 09:28 PM, bellaluna (guest) said...
Subject: Is a fresh turkey really fresh?
Ok, although I usually order a free range turkey at Whole Foods, I went to the evil empire of Costco today and bought a turkey at the last minute because the sign said they were fresh Foster Farms turkeys and had no additives or preservatives. However, over half the turkeys in the case felt hard and frozen (those near the bottom rungs of the open case cooler). Is this really fresh or is it frozen? Hard seems frozen to me....

Confused in California

On November 20, 2006 at 09:52 PM, shannon (guest) said...
Bellaluna, it sounds to me like it's either frozen or "flash-frozen", which is what they usually do to "fresh" turkeys. Either way, store it in your refrigerator. Unless it's really huge, it should thaw out by Thursday!

And hey, don't knock Costco on their meat department. I live in Virginia. I don't think there's a decent butcher shop in the entire state that doesn't cost a fortune. The meat at the Costco here is better than in the grocery stores.

In one of her last books, Julia Child herself gave a shout out to Costco meat! I'm thrilled there's one minutes away from my home.

Good luck with that bird!

On November 20, 2006 at 10:21 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: Is a fresh turkey really fresh?
bellaluna wrote:
However, over half the turkeys in the case felt hard and frozen (those near the bottom rungs of the open case cooler). Is this really fresh or is it frozen? Hard seems frozen to me....

As long as the turkey is stored at temperatures greater than 26°F (-3°C), it can be labeled fresh. For more info on buying turkeys, see Kitchen Notes: Buying Whole Turkeys

On November 21, 2006 at 02:19 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Avoiding the bumpy look when using the flipping method
Both this year and last I used Cook's Illustrated's suggestion for avoiding the bumpy look that can apparently result from starting the bird breast side down on a V-rack. Before you put the bird on the V-rack, line it with heavy duty foil and poke 20-30 holes in it with a skewer or paring knife. It seems to work well for me, although I haven't been using birds that are more than 15 lbs.

On November 21, 2006 at 05:33 AM, sansmouton said...
Subject: brining a "pre-basted" turkey
hey michael,

love the site.

i was planning to follow a variation of your recipe, and noticed a special caveat you had about brining with special "pre-treated" birds. i looked, and it turns out i bought a 20lb norbest turkey that had been pre-basted with turkey broth or something along those lines. i think this includes sodium.

can i still brine the bird? you wrote to decrease the level of salt in the brine solution but how much is too much?

i'm afraid of making an overly salty bird. would it just be safer to skip brining in this case? or can one "brine" with just aromatics and peppercorns and star anise and such with no salt? seems to defeat the purpose.

On November 21, 2006 at 11:28 AM, Craig Fry said...
On Nov 20, 2006 at 11:17 AM, doron (guest) said...
Subject: old timey reciepe
Whatever happened to the old timey way of cooking the bird slowly and for a long time? I know it is not recomended but the turkey I am going to have at Thanksgiving will normally be cooked for around 12 -15 hrs at 200 - 225 and will not only have an internal temp of at least 185 but will also be the moistest one you have ever eaten. Typically it goes in at around 9 in the evening and comes out at noon next day. No one has ever gotten sick. Plus as an engineer I appreciate the ease of preparation - put it in the oven and dont mess with it.

Then you've been damn lucky. I'll take the health of my family over ease of preparation anyday.

On November 21, 2006 at 02:04 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: brining a "pre-basted" turkey
sansmouton wrote:
i looked, and it turns out i bought a 20lb norbest turkey that had been pre-basted with turkey broth or something along those lines. i think this includes sodium.

can i still brine the bird? you wrote to decrease the level of salt in the brine solution but how much is too much?

This is a bit tricky since without previous experience with that brand of turkey, it's really difficult to determine just how salty the bird already is. However, generally, even birds that have already been injected with salt water/broth solution can benefit from a brining. To be safe, use half the salt to water (1/2 cup to 1 gallon ratio). This will reduce the salt and the rate at which the brine affects the turkey, but will still make a difference.

On November 22, 2006 at 07:51 PM, sha said...
Hello Michael,
I just realised I bought a "butterball" turkey that is infused with 7% solution. Have you use this brand before and can I also use the above salt to water ratio too? And is it advisable to use a turkey oven bag? Thanks.

On November 22, 2006 at 09:34 PM, Sarah (guest) said...
Subject: tabletop Roaster
To get a crisp brown skin using a tabletop roaster I start at a high temp for 20 - 30 minutes, reduce heat and cover turkey with a cheesecloth soaked in butter. Remove cloth for last 30 minutes of cooking time. This has worked like a charm every year. Very brown, moist and tasty.

On November 23, 2006 at 01:50 AM, Michael Chu said...
sha wrote:
I just realised I bought a "butterball" turkey that is infused with 7% solution. Have you use this brand before and can I also use the above salt to water ratio too? And is it advisable to use a turkey oven bag? Thanks.

Even though the Butterball comes infused with a 7% solution, it can still benefit from a brine. Use the reduced concentration brine: 1/2 cup table salt to 1 gallon ratio.

A turkey bag is a convenient way to prepare a turkey, but you won't be able to use the recipe as written above.

On November 23, 2006 at 09:56 PM, Wayne Bengston (guest) said...
Subject: Use injectable marinade, no brining required.
I've done turkeys in my convection oven the past 2 years. I used Tony Chaceres Cajun Butter last year and Jalapeno Butter this year.

Last year I cooked it at 375F and wound up having to use foil to get an even doneness, but the turkey came out very juicy with crisp skin. I dusted the turkey with Tony Chaceres and sprayed it with olive oil, no basting while cooking. Everyone agreed it was the best they had ever had.

This year I got a Diestel bird, which is fresh and has no antibiotics or other unatural products added. I used some leftover Jalapeno Butter Marinade, mixed with olive oil, and coated the turkey with that. I cooked it this year at 300F and did not have to use foil. The skin was not crispy, but was still very flavorful. Everyone raved about the juicyness and flavor of the meat. Everyone agreed it was even better than last year, and had no Jalapeno "heat" but just a hint of Jalapeno flavor, which was perfect.

This year I used a remote probe to measure the internal temp. Got it at Walmart for $10 and it has an alarm for when the setpoint temp is reached. This allows you to check the temp without opening the oven. A 22 pound turkey was fully cooked in 3 hours and 20 minutes at 300F in the convection oven.

I'm sold on, convection ovens, Diestel birds and Tony's marinades.

I got my Diestel bird at Whole Foods.

On November 24, 2006 at 02:15 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Is it wrong to simply cut a slit into the frozen turkey bag which came with the birdy, pour in salt and water? I've done that for years and never thought about the health risks.

What does NaCl do to the plastic which could endanger someone? Just curious.

On November 24, 2006 at 10:06 AM, GaryProtein said...
Craig Fry wrote:
On Nov 20, 2006 at 11:17 AM, doron (guest) said...
Subject: old timey reciepe
Whatever happened to the old timey way of cooking the bird slowly and for a long time? I know it is not recomended but the turkey I am going to have at Thanksgiving will normally be cooked for around 12 -15 hrs at 200 - 225 and will not only have an internal temp of at least 185 but will also be the moistest one you have ever eaten. Typically it goes in at around 9 in the evening and comes out at noon next day. No one has ever gotten sick. Plus as an engineer I appreciate the ease of preparation - put it in the oven and dont mess with it.

Then you've been damn lucky. I'll take the health of my family over ease of preparation anyday.

The fact is, it doesn't matter how you cook the bird as long as you get a final temp of 170 in white and 180 in dark meat, it will be safe to eat. I have cooked turduckens (25 lb turkey, 9 lb duck and 6 lb chicken--weights before cleaning and deboning) at 200 degrees for 20 hours, and using a final internal temp of 180, and everything was moist, tender and de-bacterialized. You don't cook food to make it sterile, you cook it to kill reasonably expected bacteria from handling and what might be in an otherwise healthy animal, and muscle tissue (that's what you eat in animals for the most part) is sterile. I don't think you would want to eat meats cooked to a final temperature of more than 212 degrees which would insure everything other than bacterial spores would be killed. To really sterilize food, you would have to cook it in a pressure cooker (a home autoclave) achieving a temperature of 250 degrees for 15 minutes. YUCK!

You can deep fry, hot smoke, roast at 300 degrees, 350, 500, then down to 350 or so or god forbid boil or microwave the turkey, but as long as the prescribed internal temps are achieved, the bird is safely cooked. Flavor and tenderness is largely the result of preparation technique. As long as you don't overcook the bird, it won't dry out.

On November 24, 2006 at 01:25 PM, Ludwig (guest) said...
Subject: Turjey and brining
I do not understand the reason for brining unless the purpose is of religious value such as doing a kosher bird. This is not good for those who have dietary health problems, either.

Why not just stuff the turkey, then roast and baste it??
As a child I often saw it done this way---especially with chestnut or other suffing which would then be made into a dressing such as sage, chestnut or sausage etc.

On November 24, 2006 at 09:57 PM, GaryProtein said...
Subject: Re: Turjey and brining
Ludwig wrote:
I do not understand the reason for brining unless the purpose is of religious value such as doing a kosher bird. This is not good for those who have dietary health problems, either.

Why not just stuff the turkey, then roast and baste it??
As a child I often saw it done this way---especially with chestnut or other suffing which would then be made into a dressing such as sage, chestnut or sausage etc.

Brining is not of any "religious value." The Kosher law requires SALTING and there is no substitute. After salting, a period of rinsing with cold water is required. The purpose of salting is to draw out any remaining blood after slaughter, liquid brine cannot do this and does not satisfy Kosher law. The purpose of brining is to partially denature and break down the protein and soften the poultry over a 12-48 hour period. It also, after a period of equilibration brings more water into the meat, making it juicier after cooking. Longer brining periods can be used. but I am told it leads to meat that is too salty tasting.

A problem with cooking a stuffed birds is that the stuffing draws water and moisture out oif the bird and also increases the necessary cooking time needed for the stuffing to reach a safe internal temperature. This extra cooking time also tends to dry out the bird.

On December 06, 2006 at 01:01 AM, JC (guest) said...
How would you convert your Classic Turkey Roast recipe to the smaller bird, the chicken? ie. Do you have a suggested roasting minutes per lb (or per kg), and would there be any difference in temperature?

Thanks! I love your website, and hope you continue to add more recipes!

On December 10, 2006 at 04:40 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Turkey
I'm not an expert, but after 35 years of cooking turkey, I've learned a little. Fresh beats frozen every time, especially if farm raised locally. Do not overcook, 170 degrees is about right. Cooking will continue after removing from heat. 18-22 lb. birds cooked on a Weber using indirect heat are hard to beat. Basting is the only mandatory ingredient to cooking turkey. All else is just icing on the cake. Pat dry, baste, cook, baste, cook, rest, slice and eat. This is not brain surgery- just susti :) nence.

On December 24, 2006 at 07:07 PM, SteveInSweden (guest) said...
Subject: Sleeping after turkey plus plus plus
Quickly - Happy Christmas everyone!

About the earlier discussion on why people sleep after turkey - yes, turkey contains Tryptophan. This is an amino acid that your body uses to make serotonin, one of the "home-grown" chemicals that your body can synthesise to make you feel good. This can make you feel sleepy, just like drinking some wine, or having sex, can make you sleepy. I am inclined to say, though, that the AMOUNT of Christmas dinner people manage to put away, rather than the particular content of the dinner, is more likely to make them sleepy. Eating a lot turns off your body's adrenaline reactions, making you into a doughy, dopey ball of niceness, rather than the angry, powerful tower of strength you would be if you were locked outside in the snow without your turkey.

On December 25, 2006 at 03:34 PM, righthandman314 (guest) said...
Subject: Brining container
I've brined several times over the past 10 years. What I've always used is a plastic carboy from my beer brewing equipment. They're available in a variety of sizes, and are made of food-grade plastic. I've assigned one strictly for brining duty. Easy to clean and to sanitize afterwards, although it's a bitch to fit in the fridge.

You might want to consider brining with Wild Turkey added as well. Chris Carmichael (or something like that) had a real nice recipe for turkey brined in WT on Martha Stewart's web site.

On December 25, 2006 at 04:22 PM, maplesbc (guest) said...
Subject: larger bird?
Great site! Sorry if I missed this, but I've scrolled all down the page and not seen an update for bigger turkeys. I love the chart with timing, and have printed it out, but my turkey is 15 pounds, not 12. Was an update for larger birds ever added? Thanks in any case for the good tips and pix. (I *will* brine next year...(

On December 29, 2006 at 10:27 PM, mtnman (guest) said...
why kosher salt? will mortons iodized work the same?

On January 04, 2007 at 04:00 PM, Capn Guts (guest) said...
Subject: Brine
I have cooked just 2 turkeys before. I'm about to do a third. The first was done "paper bag" style. Though you have to get a food-safe paper bag, it works pretty well. The idea is that it holds juices like a plastic baking bag, but the paper acts a little like a sponge to hold juices against the skin instead of letting them all run down.

Since I didn't have any food-safe paper bags handy, my next turkey was cooked breast side down, directly on the oven rack, with a tray below to collect drippings. No brining, flipping, or basting here either. The better airflow around the bird did make it cook quite quickly to temperature, but the wings and legs ends dried up a lot. The breast (cooked down, so it had grill marks, but I don't care) was wonderful.

I always start with a salt, butter, and spice rub as well as a few broken veggies in the cavity for flavor. Both mine so far have come out as good or better than anything I remember from childhood holidays.

Oh, I had a question. I have always used frozen turkeys like Butterball and such that contain 8-10% "of a solution." I assume this is the butter juice they get injected with or something. My point is, are these birds essentially pre-brined? Will further brining simply dilute their special "solution" with your own? Having never had a brined turkey, am I simply missing something?

On January 07, 2007 at 09:14 PM, guest (guest) said...
Subject: Brining and breast-down cooking is definitely the best
I just cooked a 12 pound turkey breast-down after brining for 4 hours and it was the best turkey I ever had. Here is the high-level process:

Brined for 4 hours using 1 cup salt per gallon of water. Covered entire bird in solution.

Pat-dried with paper towels and used a hair dryer on 'cool' setting to completely dry the bird.

Covered entire bird with salt, pepper and butter.

Put breast-down on a rack laying over a baking tray.

Basted one time after 1 hour.

Cooked at 325 F for 3.5 hours.

Cooled for 15 miutes.

Awesome turkey!! Thanks for the tips.


On February 23, 2007 at 01:53 AM, angfab (guest) said...
Subject: turkey brine
I was wondering if you can use orange juice along with the brine to help break down the proteins and add flavor in one step.

On March 01, 2007 at 05:16 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: turkey brine
angfab wrote:
I was wondering if you can use orange juice along with the brine to help break down the proteins and add flavor in one step.


On August 06, 2007 at 04:09 PM, Christian P. (guest) said...
Subject: Suitable container to brine a large bird in.
Recently I was called upon to feed a large number of my fellow students. I needed to find an economical meat to feed 11-14 people and I decided upon turkey.

I had absolutely no idea how to cook the bird and came to this site to find out how. I came to the part in the recipe that requires brining. I did not have anything large enough to brine a bird. So I took off to Wally-World to find something and found nothing in the cooking ware section.

It was not until I went to purchase some food for my fishes that I found an inspiration as to resolve the problem of a non-reactive container for brining. I saw a display of 25 gallon(and other sized) glass aquariums for $35-40 in price.

I ended up buying a 25 gallon aquarium and using that to brine the turkey. Worked like a charm for me.

P.S. - Considering this was my first time cooking a turkey, I did very well. Whether that is due to the instructions on this website or blind beginners luck..IDK, but I do know the bird was a hit. Thank you very much Cooking For Engineers!!!

On August 18, 2007 at 05:02 PM, Guest (guest) said...
Subject: Roast Turkey
This is the absolute BEST recipe for roast turkey. It is moist, presentable and flavorful. Brining DOES bring out the flavor. Some say that it is not necessary but it is, especially if you are buying a free range or kosher bird that has not been injected with any salt water solution prior to purchase. you will not be dissapointed. I have cooked a turkey every year for thanksgiving for the past 12 years but something was always sacrificed. It took an engineer to give a better recipe than cookbooks and a advice from a few grandmas. :P

On August 20, 2007 at 01:02 AM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: Roast Turkey
Guest wrote:
Some say that it is not necessary but it is, especially if you are buying a free range or kosher bird that has not been injected with any salt water solution prior to purchase. you will not be dissapointed.

Be careful when brining a kosher bird - often they are already pretty salty and a full brining time will result in an overly salty bird. I recommend halving the brining time when using a kosher turkey.

On September 17, 2007 at 04:07 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Par cooking for a busy holiday
Four years ago I worked for a caterer, and was complaining to her about how much time I have to spend in the kitchen on the holiday. She asked me to break down everything I have to make, and bet me lunch that she could cut my time in the kitchen on the day of the holiday in half. I ended up buying her a wonderful lunch.

If the holiday falls on Thursday, she had me brine the thawed turkey on Monday of the same week, in the refrigerator in a 5 gal bucket, (purchased solely for this use). As suggested, I brined the bird for 12 hours, rinsed and patted the bird dry, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until Tuesday.

On Wednesday, I roasted the bird, as recommended, making a wonderful looking bird, bringing the breast temperature up to 130 degrees internal temperature. Vastly undercooked, but on purpose. I let it rest to a tolerable temperature, and carved the bird off the bone into primal sections, [u:4151c61130]not slices[/u:4151c61130], (e.g., leg/thigh, each breast, etc.) Those primal sections were stored refrigerated in a covered, non-reactive pan, with turkey or chicken stock covering the lower half of the sections. At this point, as I vigorously cleaned up all of the juices and trimmings on my counter and board, I was certain I was about to kill everyone on my guest list. Please read on.

I held the bird, quasi-carved, in the refrigerator in a foil-covered stainless steel pan until Thursday. Two hours before service, I put the entire pan straight from the refrigerator into the oven, and brought the turkey up to the appropriate internal temperature. I have even crisped the skin on baking sheets during the last 30 minutes of cook time. If the white meat is done before the dark meat, you can separate them in this process. The turkey can be held like this, covered pan with lots of stock, to keep it moist and delicious. Remove from the pan and let rest as usual, then carve slices as usual. This first one was not only the best tasting and looking bird I have ever served, but I was able to enjoy my guests. I have done it that way ever since, and no one has ever been sick from the food, (I have had a few with hangovers from the pomegranate martinis though!)

I strongly recommend this process, but keep in mind that the un- or under-cooked parts must be kept properly refrigerated, and that the served product must be brought up to the appropriate internal temperature, just like always. I use Clorox wipes to clean up, but you can use a diluted bleach or other anti-bacterial agent to clean up the dangerous undercooked drippings.

I also use the undercooked carcass for stock by roasting it after the meat has been flayed from the bones. Wonderful!

On November 05, 2007 at 12:08 PM, jkarle1106 said...
Just a few comments. The paint bucket works good for brining. Almost all paint buckets are fluorinated on the inside, either during of after forming. This is done specifically to prevent anything from migrating into or out of the plastic. Even down to the parts per billion range. As far as using garbage bags, the only difference in a "food grade" garbage bag and a non graded bag is .......exactly none, chemically. Food grade is UV sterilized. The government checks. You know, the same folks who deliver the mail, administer social security, protect our boarders,....................

As to the post from "On November 18, 2005 at 02:14 AM, an anonymous reader said...", the CIA guy; A formal cooking school is very good at teaching the mechanics of following a recipe, and thus turning out competent cooks, some of us "geeks" like to know the why, not just the how.

On November 05, 2007 at 08:27 PM, Sandra (guest) said...
Subject: Confussion about brining
Your recipe calls for brining the turkey for four hours. Most recipes I have read says to brine over night up to 12 hours. Now I'm confused. four hours or eight hours.... Pros & Cons???

On November 06, 2007 at 03:23 AM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: Confussion about brining
Sandra wrote:
Your recipe calls for brining the turkey for four hours. Most recipes I have read says to brine over night up to 12 hours. Now I'm confused. four hours or eight hours.... Pros & Cons???

With a 1 cup table salt per 1 gallon water brining solution, I advocate 4 hours of brine time. Going 8 hours is a bit too salty for my taste and less doesn't seem to firm up the flesh and provide adequate moisture in the meat to not dry out during the roasting.

On November 07, 2007 at 10:04 AM, ReggieC (guest) said...
Subject: Roasting a Turkey
Have you tried a "roasting bag"?
I've used nothing else and my bird always comes out browned, very moist, and mouth-wartering.

I baste it outside and in the cavity with a mixture of thyme, ground sage, garlic and onion powder in melted butter (NOT MARGERINE!) I then stuff it with a traditional bread stuffing and place it in the bag with 3-4 small slits in it and insert a roasting thermometer in the meaty part of the breast.

On November 10, 2007 at 06:13 PM, Holly (guest) said...
Subject: Roast Turkey with Bacon
Hi Gwen, remarkable how close your recipe is to mine. This came from my Grandmother, a real western gal. The bacon adds a real smokey flavor to the gravy, etc.
• Large turkey 18 to 22 pounds
• ½ lb butter, melted
• ½ pound bacon
• 1 stuffing
1. Remove giblets, neck and excess fat from turkey cavities. Save for gravy stock. Wipe turkey inside and out with paper towels and salt. Preheat oven to 325°
2. Stuff upper and lower cavities. Pin or sew neck flap to back, sealing stuffing. Tie legs together with unwaxed kitchen string. Tuck wings under turkey. Brush turkey with half the butter. Lay bacon over breast.
3. Place turkey on a roasting rack in a roasting pan larger than the turkey, with three to four inch high sides. Baste bacon with melted butter to help prevent the foil from sticking to the bacon. Cover completely with baking paper and with foil (tuck foil over edges of pan to seal). Place pan on lowest shelf in oven and roast for 1 hour. Remove turkey from oven and baste with a little remaining butter. Re-cover securely and roast for 1 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes or so.
4. Remove bacon and discard. Baste turkey with pan juices. When turkey reaches 165° degrees, remove foil and roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until turkey is golden and just cooked through (juices should run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced with a skewer). It is best to use meat thermometer.
5. Transfer turkey to a warm plate. Cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes. Reserve remaining pan juices to make gravy. It is best to carve turkey at the table. Carve meat and serve warm hot.

On November 11, 2007 at 11:56 AM, Connie (guest) said...
Holly thats the same way my Mom taught me how to do it. The turkey was always good. However just to see if it's juicier I am going to try cooking the bugger breast side down for an hour or so this year. I have brined in the past and it didn't make a huge difference. It did make the stuffing salty.........I just had to stuff that bird!! Also the meat looked weird becuase it has a pinkish tone near the bones no matter how cooked it is. Happy Thanksgiving all!

On November 15, 2007 at 11:51 PM, Harry B (guest) said...
Subject: Brining and Health Issues
If you are worried about your salt intake (or are cooking for people with high blood pressure or heart disease), stay away from brining, Kosher birds, and marinated or enhanced fresh pork products (which are sneaking their way into our supermarket meat departments). It turns a naturally low-sodium product into an artificially high sodium product. If that don't bother you, then brine away. After all, one of the first rules of cooking is SALT+ FAT = FLAVOR!
That being said, not brining your bird makes the other aspects of bird cooking (prep., seasoning other than salt, cooking technique, end temperature) that much more critical in order to make a moist, tasty bird. But, with vigilance, it can be done.

On November 16, 2007 at 11:21 AM, an anonymous reader said...

I don't understand the need to "dry" the bird after brining. Why not just use paper towels? Please explain. Thanks.

On November 16, 2007 at 01:33 PM, Michael Chu said...
Anonymous wrote:
I don't understand the need to "dry" the bird after brining. Why not just use paper towels? Please explain. Thanks.

You can definitely use paper towels, but after that I still recommend letting the bird air (in a controlled environment) for at least an hour. If if surface water has been blotted off, we want to give some time for the water just under the surface to evaporate. If this doesn't happen, then the skin wouldn't crisp up a bit and you'll possibly get rubbery or chewy skin.

On November 17, 2007 at 02:50 PM, Amy (guest) said...
Subject: brining & oven bag
I have a 24 lb turkey. Would I still brine it for 4 hrs, or since it is bigger, do I leave it in for longer?

Also, on 11/23/06, Michael, you state that a turkey bag is a convenient way to prepare a turkey, but you won't be able to use the recipe as written above. I was planning on using a reynolds oven bag, so I was wondering what parts of the recipe above would be different? Are you referring to not rotating the turkey on the V-rack, (would you even need a V-Rack if using the bag?) Or not needing to brine?

This is the 1st thanksgiving I've ever done, so I really don't want to mess up the turkey, since it's only the second one i've ever made! Thanks for your help!

On November 18, 2007 at 02:37 AM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: brining & oven bag
Amy wrote:
I have a 24 lb turkey. Would I still brine it for 4 hrs, or since it is bigger, do I leave it in for longer?

I'd probably still brine it for 4 hours. It probably wouldn't hurt to add an extra hour on, but no more than that. You don't want the turkey too salty.

Amy wrote:
Also, on 11/23/06, Michael, you state that a turkey bag is a convenient way to prepare a turkey, but you won't be able to use the recipe as written above. I was planning on using a reynolds oven bag, so I was wondering what parts of the recipe above would be different? Are you referring to not rotating the turkey on the V-rack, (would you even need a V-Rack if using the bag?) Or not needing to brine?

I think I was simply acknowledging that an oven bag is convenient. When using an oven bag, rotating will be awkward and probably won't have the same affect on the turkey. I'd still brine the bird though.

On November 18, 2007 at 10:17 PM, Sandra (guest) said...
Subject: Waiting after brining
In an effort to not be up in the wee hours to start the 4 hr brining process can I brine the evening before, remove from brine, return to refrigerator and than cook in the morning? Or will that change the effects of the Brine?

On November 19, 2007 at 10:58 PM, Notafraid (guest) said...
Subject: Brining and stuffing
I have not noticed any difference between a turkey that has been brined and one that has not. I feel it is just a waste of time and effort.

And I really have to laugh at all of the "stuffing the turkey is verboten" crowd. My god are you also afraid to go outside because you might get cancer from the sun? Stuffing from the bird is vastly superior to stuffing baked in a dish. I know we all watch in horror as news reports after Thanksgiving detail the millions of people who havwe died from eating stuffing from the bird. lol People get a backbone and stuff the bird. It's the way it's supposed to be done.

On November 20, 2007 at 08:14 AM, jkarle1106 said...
Subject: Turkeys
I disagree about the brining. If properly done it makes a [u:e41ef642cb]huge[/u:e41ef642cb] difference. I do think it's a good thing to stuff the bird, though. You can't beat the taste! If you just use some common sense, I bet your chances of getting sick or killed from the stuffing are about the same as getting hit by a meteor.

On November 20, 2007 at 10:34 AM, dc (guest) said...
Subject: cooking method
I brine overnight with 1 gal of vegetable stock, water, salt, peppercorns, and allspice. I cook a 25 lb bird each year.

Once in the roasting pan (breast side up) I drape with cheesecloth soaked in a mixture of 1 stick of butter and 1 bottle of white wine (heated together). I keep the cloth moist during roasting with the butter/wine mixture. Then remove the cloth for the last 30 min of roasting to brown the skin.

On November 20, 2007 at 08:26 PM, Gobbleitallup (guest) said...
Subject: Mmmmmmm.....Turkey!!
I have never brined my turkey. A little thyme, salt and pepper, and perhaps a dash of allspice. Flip at the start, and a silly foil tent near the end and yum-yum. For stuffing, I get the seasoned bag stuff, add some melted butter and juices from big bird, and some chopped onion and celery, and perhaps a squirt of gravy. Bake. Yum-yum. Throw in some buttery smashed potatoes, smothered in sweet corn and gravy. Some buttered hot cross buns. And a lucious green bean casserole. Cranberry sauce. And for dessert, we have pumpkin pie drowned with cool whip. As I stuff myself, I fully expect my Packers to be merrily thrashing those poor, poor Lions. Who could ask for anything more?

On November 21, 2007 at 01:55 AM, Sara (guest) said...
Subject: Roasting my turkey
What a great read! I'm a novice at turkey roasting, & it's intimidating :unsure: , but after reading the recipe & all the comments & variations, I feel a real sense of freedom & hopefulness! I laughed out loud :lol: at all the confusion (I could relate) & various strong opposing opinions. I learned SO MUCH! Thank you ALL for the entertaining enlightenment on all my options! I'm not an engineer, but am very analytical B) , & this is my kind of thing--thank you Michael! I'll let you know how my bird turns out after I decide how to prep & roast it ;) ... gobble gobble!

On November 21, 2007 at 11:06 AM, an anonymous reader said...
I just bought a new oven. It is a convection oven. I can of course switch from regular to convection. I really want to use the convection aspect to cook my turkey. Any comments, suggestions or last minute instructions? Please Help!

On November 21, 2007 at 02:49 PM, Dan (guest) said...
Subject: preparing a VERY small turkey
At the ripe age of 34 I had my first 'Thanksgiving boss' opportunity. I asked my Belgian wife to get the smallest turkey she could find for our two Russian friends who were coming over. We cooked an 8 lb turkey using standard methods. After it's appointed cooking time, I took it out to find it had basically fallen apart into a pile of bones and very tender meat. I took the bag out of the trash and it was, in fact, a very large chicken. With two Russians and a Belgian as my guests, I just didn't tell them this was out of the ordinary. And it was a great chicken!

On November 21, 2007 at 03:37 PM, Marco (guest) said...
Subject: Brining Bags
New Product Flash... I just bough 20 Gallon Zip Lock bags to brine my 30 pound Turkey... They're called "BigBags" and come in 10, 15, and 20 Gallon sizes. They zip and they're safe for food.

On November 21, 2007 at 06:59 PM, Liz (guest) said...
Subject: Roasting turkey - oven to tabletop roaster?
I would like to use my large Rival roaster to make my 23 pound turkey, but I've heard and read that it will not brown. Can I cook it part way in the oven until it is browned then transfer to the already heated roaster? Any comments?

On November 21, 2007 at 08:26 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: Roasting turkey - oven to tabletop roaster?
Liz wrote:
I would like to use my large Rival roaster to make my 23 pound turkey, but I've heard and read that it will not brown. Can I cook it part way in the oven until it is browned then transfer to the already heated roaster? Any comments?

I'm not familiar with this roaster - but my guess is that you can brown it in the oven and transfer to finish if you think the roaster won't brown the turkey. This must be a pretty big roaster...

On November 21, 2007 at 10:16 PM, jkarle1106 said...
My experience with a roaster is they do a lot of steaming and not much browning. They are great for making "pulled" meat. I'd cook the turkey most of the way in the roaster, then brown it in the oven to finish.

On November 22, 2007 at 12:08 AM, visiter (guest) said...
Subject: TG bird. convection or other confusion
I loved the read here! I am more confused as to how I wish to proceed than I ever was. I Have decided to go ahead and use my convection oven to cook tomorrow. It has worked excellently on many other foods including frozen pies and lasagna etc (no preheat in same time as label)

As to the Bird itself.. I am going to leave the legs untrussed and the wings tucked under. I have made a vegetable stock already and added the nechk and gizzard but I know that there is only one true way to make stuffing. It can NOt be called stuffing if it isn't stuffed! THere is too much flavor involved inside the bird. Yes I will use my instant thermometer.

I think that I am going to the store on Friday and buy a few turkeys (usually very cheap after TG). I will then debone them and sew them for cooking, leaving room for the stuffing and then vacuum pack them. The bones will be used for stock to make the stuffing with (turkey fat and all), and reduced to the minimum required stock. and then stored in the freezer as well in canning jars (yes they can be frozen, just don't overfill.

I am actually excited about trying a stuffed boned turkey myself. It sounds too easy and too good.

After that..I think I will return here and check out more ideas and recipes

On November 22, 2007 at 12:42 AM, visiter (guest) said...
Subject: 45 pound turkey
There were several references to cooking very large turkeys. I have raised a few broad breasted bronze turkeys that got this large. As I was killing on Wednesday and cooking on Thursday, the turkey never even got chilled thoroughly.

The cooking times were actually severely reduced because of the fact that they were not chilled through (the same as a 25 pound bird!). I would suggest that anyone who has a very large bird make sure to bring thier bird evenly to a non-refrigerated status, probably at 40-45 degrees or even warmer . The issue with a large bird is that the internal temperatures might be much different from the surface temperatures and cause uneven cooking and dryness (especially at the breast). Maybe leaving the bird in a portable cooler to let its temperature slowly and evenly rise would work?

One of my huge toms was stuffed (which I do NOT reccommend as lifting that amount of weight from a HOT oven is NOT easily accomplished and dangerous), and was extremely delicious but a little dry at the outer breast

I have also considered splitting a huge bird like this down each side, removing hte back and leaving just the legs, wings and breast. The bird could then rest easily on the stuffing and cook more evenly in a roasting pan. Doing this would allow the use of the back for stock to make the stuffing.

On November 22, 2007 at 01:40 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Old SF Chronicle Article Turkey Cooking experiments

I thought I'd link this article which is interesting and sort of confirms the method in this recipe. I was wondering if 400deg vs 325deg would be better. From the article, it was pretty clear to them that 400deg gave the best results.

On November 22, 2007 at 11:19 AM, snawrocki (guest) said...
Subject: done it all, I think
Every year it seems we wait until the last minute and go looking for a new and exciting method to roast our annual bird. I, too, have tried Alton Brown's recipe for brined bird and also tried brining with the pre-made mix from Williams Sonoma. We were not able to discern any significant difference in taste or texture from either. We tried Turducken (a $100 mistake we were afraid to feed to the dogs as we thought it might increase the cost when adding in the vet bill), high roasting method (set off every smoke alarm in the house and scared the hell out of the guests when it appeared the house would burst into flames at any minute - very tasty though), stuffed and unstuffed, slow roasted overnight etc. I WAS going to try a countertop roaster until reading all the postings here so today we will use Alton's roasting method, unstuffed and unbrined (not sure this is a word). Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and good luck. Remember - there's enough food without the turkey.

On November 22, 2007 at 01:56 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: brining timing
does anyone know if brining a 6 1/2 lb turkey breast for maybe 3 hours vs. the suggested 4-8 hours will make a huge difference, or completely defeat the point of brining in the first place? Im already an hour off of my cooking schedule and dont want to wait if i dont have to! thanks have a great thanksgiving!!! :huh:

On November 22, 2007 at 05:31 PM, Wayne Bengston (guest) said...
Subject: Yet another success with Tony's Injector and convection oven
I repeated last year's fresh Diestel bird in a 300F convection oven, set to convection roast, and Tony Chachere's Jalapeno Butter Marinade.

I injected the marinade 12 hours before cooking. I then covered the bird with Tony's seasoning and sprayed it with olive oil. I put the turkey on a a V-Rack on a shallow pan, breast side up and baked it until the temp was 160F at the coolest part, then let it sit for an hour while finishing sides. It was as good as last year, with crispy skin and pefectly cooked light and dark meat. It took 3 hours and 45 minutes to do a 24 Lb turkey. I used no foil or basting. Easier than pie.

Once more, it got rave reviews.

Wayne Bengston
Houston TX

On November 22, 2007 at 09:07 PM, YoKitty said...
I bought what was labeled as an 11.5 pound turkey. Inside the neck cavity were the standard giblets. So what was in the two bags tucked in the plastic with it? More giblets! 1 1/2 more livers, a second heart, a CHICKEN heart, and two more gizzards. Sigh. So the cats have lots of gizzards for treats (and the chicken heart), the turkey hearts went into the stuffing/dressing, and I made pate.

I unwrapped the turkey on Tuesday, dried it thoroughly, rubbed it lightly with salt and Bell's poultry seasoning, and put it in the fridge draped with paper towels. Today I stuffed it, brushed it with olive oil and more herbs, foil-wrapped the wings, and baked it, the first 20 minutes at 425F, followed by 2 1/2 hours at 325F. The first 45 minutes I had it on its side (wing up), then 45 on the other side, then I turned it breast up and unwrapped the wings. It came out a with the skin a deep red/gold color, and the meat was lusciously moist.

On November 23, 2008 at 08:57 AM, sbarrow1 (guest) said...
Subject: convection oven turkey
i use my convection oven for the best roast chicken ever. i rub it with kosher salt and butter and cook it on 400-425 for an hour or so, yielding crisp skin and moist meat.

is there any reason this wouldn't work for a turkey if it is cooked for a longer time?

On November 23, 2008 at 07:43 PM, Lily (guest) said...
Subject: 40 lb turkey
I came to this site because I noticed the comment on the 40lb turkey back in 05'. No one ever replied to that person, and I have the same problem. We raised this turkey from spring till nov.23 and it is 40lbs! No we didn't try to make it this big, we just fed it everyday with pellets and fruit and veggie scraps. So still nobody knows how you cook a bird so big? I guess we will have to cut it in half... Hope it doesn't come out to dry. -Lily New Hampshire

On December 11, 2008 at 01:07 AM, WendyKay (guest) said...
Subject: Turkey roast
A great help for me - an unenthusiastic cook. The best turkey I have ever had. I covered the bird with foil for the first 3 hours, cooked for most of the time breast side down. I took off the foil and browned it then rested it for about an hour on the bench while the vegies cooked and browned. It was great to have Christmas dinner in early December on a coolish day in a Sydney summer.

On May 03, 2009 at 11:42 AM, KevinB (guest) said...
Subject: Simple roast turkey
Can't understand all this fuss over such a simple dish. I learned this recipe from my mom, and I have been using it for over thirty years without ever having a mishap.

I don't bother with brining. I do stuff my turkey with a sausage/bread/onion mix, but I <b>cook</b> the sausage first separately to ensure it's done (I throw the onions in with the sausage as well). No one has ever gotten sick. I don't even find it necessary to truss the turkey - there's usually a flap of skin at the back you can tuck the drumsticks under, and using a V-rack, I don't see a need to tie up the wings either. I do use a skewer to close off the front cavity (which I also stuff).

Here's where I change from what everyone else has posted - first, I rub the bird all over with a mix of butter and canola oil. Next, I soak a triple layer of cheesecloth in canola oil, and spread that over the breast, making sure it's completely covered. This slows down the breast, and lets the dark meat and white meat be ready at the same time. Roast depending on weight, basting every 30-40 minutes, but with 30 minutes to go, slowly (you don't want to tear the skin!) remove the cheesecloth. This allows the breast skin to brown and crisp up. I baste every ten minutes after that (and if the breast isn't browning, I'll turn on the broiler for the last five minutes, but you'll have to watch it like a hawk during that time so that it doesn't burn). As recommended, remove from the oven, tent with foil, and let rest for at least 20-30 minutes. (Remove stuffing first, if you stuffed your bird.) The only drawback I've found is the pan juices are full of fat (from both the bird and the oil), so you need to get a good "fat separator" pot, and/or refrigerate the juices for a few minutes to encourage the fat to rise to the surface. The leftover juice makes a great pan gravy.

The result - crispy skin, juicy breast meat, succulent dark meat, flavourful stuffing (and I always make too much, so I cook a batch separately in the toaster oven - this gives people a choice between a "wet" and "dry" stuffing), and a beautiful presentation. I've probably cooked turkey this way over 50 times, and it has never failed me.

Oh, and I don't bother with kosher, organic, Butterball, or other special turkeys - I just get a regular Canada Grade "A" frozen bird, thaw, and cook.

On October 13, 2009 at 01:21 AM, smallzi (guest) said...
Subject: re: brine
an easy way to prepare a brine is by placing an egg in the bottom of your nonreactive container (i use a five gallon bucket for turkeys). Slowly stir salt into the solution until the egg begins to float. That's it!

On November 16, 2009 at 03:27 PM, Jazznme3 (guest) said...
Subject: The BEST!
I love roasting a turkey every year. It is the most work of anything else I make probably. Well, maybe not the Italian Easter Pies! It's my stuffing that takes a lot of prep. I follow my grandma's recipe. It's THE BEST!! (lots of eggs and butter and hand broken Italian-French bread, plus a much more....) I tried the Diestel one year. I thought it no better than any previous. Then came last year. I discovered the brined turkey at Trader Joes. AND I followed someone's tip, on food show, on how to gently separate the skin and rub in some herbed butter. So between these two new changes, WOW! that was some turkey. Never has the breast meat been so moist, and I'm talking about the left overs, as well. Days later... still moist. Unbelievably wonderful!! So, I'm just hoping I can repeat what I did last year and nothing less. Brined turkey and getting under the skin. I was really hesitant to do the under skin thing. And I roasted it, not in my traditional deep Magnalite roaster, but my large, square Magnalite 2" deep roast pan. Only wish I could remember who gave it as a wedding gift...48 years ago. So, that's the deal of the "BEST EVER".

On November 20, 2009 at 09:01 PM, Confused in California (guest) said...
Subject: Forget the bags, forget the brine forget everything you read
Look people, all you need to do is forget about all that worrying about whether the turkey should be brined in a bag or a bucket or whatever! I jus put er in the toilet downstairs for a day or so and flush it a few times to keep it cool. No fuss no mess! you can add salt to the water if you want, but again, it's no problem! Just make sure that your family knows that the turkeys downstairs and not to use the toilet. I remember that one year.....

Anyway, seriously though, it's great. It works fine and as long as you wash it out really good beforehand, it's totally good.

On November 24, 2009 at 01:07 PM, Wayne Bengston (guest) said...
Subject: Branigan's Turkey Farm Free Range Turkey
If you live in Northern California, you owe it to yourself to try a Branigan's Turkey Farm free range turkey.

I've done turkeys in my convection oven the past 5 years. I've used Tony Chaceres Cajun Butter and Jalapeno Butter injected marinades instead of brining, and wound up with tasty, juicy turkeys each year. I've settled on the Tony Chaceres Jalapeno Butter as my favorite, and had no complaints from the dozens of people who have tried my turkey.

The past 3 years, I've used Diestel turkeys, which are superb, and pretty widely available.

The method I've evolved to is to inject the marinade 12 hours before roasting. Just before roasting, I dust the turkey with Tony Chaceres and spray it with olive oil. I put it on a V-Rack over a very shallow pan, so that airflow is unimpeded. More traditional deep pans impede airflow and the result is an unevenly cooked turkey.

I cook it on at 300F using the Convection Roast setting, and rotate the turkey 180 halfway thru cooking. I do not baste or cover the turkey.

I use a remote probe to measure the internal temp. Got it at Walmart for $10 and it has an alarm for when the setpoint temp is reached.

I pull the turkey when it hits 160F in the coldest spot. This results in a beautiful bird with a golden brown coloring and some crispy skin. The meat is always juicy and tasty.

This year, I purchased a Branigan's Turkey Farm Free Range Turkey at Nugget in Vacaville, CA. Other locations are listed here; Nugget also had several varieties of injectable marinade, including my Tony's Jalapeno Butter.

They claim to raise the turkey about 10 weeks longer than others do, resulting in a juicier and tastier bird. I found that to be true.

This year, I cooked a 18Lb Branigan's turkey for 3 hours and 15 minutes, bringing it to 160F in the coldest place. This turkey was, hands down, the best I've ever had. It was much more flavorful than any other turkey I've ever had, and the juice that flowed upon carving has to be seen to be believed.

I brought some in for lunchtime sandwiches today, and could not wait, but had them for breakfast. The meat was still juicy. The flavor was even better.

On November 24, 2009 at 03:31 PM, prairiegirl (guest) said...
Subject: Roast Turkey
Hey, my mom always makes the best-tasting, moist turkey by baking it covered tightly in foil and basting it every 30 minutes or so. I am sure she rubs it with butter or oil and salts it really well first. I bought a smaller, fresh turkey to try the "right" way and followed the directions on the turkey bag exactly. Which says to wash, dry, rub with oil, salt and pepper, roast on a rack til done. Yuck! The pop off thermometer was out but the turkey had NO flavor and was not moist or tender. It may have needed to cook a little longer. I am throwing it away. But, I have to say, my mother's "wrong" way sure tastes great! It is more like the method used by the Penn. Dutch lady. I brined chicken once and did not like the change in meat texture. I cooked a turkey breast last year and am guessing it was pre-brined because the meat texture was almost like pickled-kind of slimy and gelatinous. Definitely moist, but wierd.

On November 25, 2009 at 02:45 AM, Blu (guest) said...
Should I need to season the turkey with salt and pepper before I put it in the oven, or was the brining enough? I'm looking at some other recipes and it says to brine and season afterwards.

On November 25, 2009 at 09:47 PM, pbell (guest) said...
Subject: stuffing a turkey
We have been eating stuffed turkey in our home for thirty years and no one has ever been sickened from it.
I line the cavity with cheese cloth, stuff the bird loosely, and when the roasting is done, remove the cheesecloth bag and empty into an oven-proof serving dish. While the turkey is "resting", the stuffing is returned to the oven to continue heating through.
The cavity remains free of stuffing for its second life as leftovers and the wonderful rich flavor of in-the-bird stuffing is still part of the meal.

On November 26, 2009 at 01:13 AM, chefish (guest) said...
Subject: turkey roasting
Always buy a natural or organic bird that hasn't been frozen.
Supermarket brands inject stock (and who knows what else) into the meat, and when the meat roasts, the stock turns to steam and dries out the breasts. If you cook a turkey in a baking bag or wrapped in foil, you're actually steaming the turkey. Expect a stewy flavor, even if you manage to keep the breast moist. I like turkey roasted.
Freezing bursts the cells in the tissue in meats, so there's no way to get a good, fresh texture from a frozen turkey.
Brining is good! I've used stock pots, ice tubs, plastic bags, etc, without problems. The most important ingredients are salt/sugar. Other spices and herbs (except maybe rosemary) won't be very discernible, and flavorings mask the flavor of the turkey. If you want a more herbal brine, dissolve the salt/sugar in a couple quarts of water and add some spices and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Let this cool, pour over the turkey and then add the rest of the water and chill overnight.
Don't be afraid of brown! Some people put a foil tent on the turkey. I've never found that it makes a flavor difference. Dark is OK. Just don't burn it!
You can make little foil "booties" for the drumsticks to prevent the meat from separating from the bone if that bothers you.
Always use an instant-read thermometer to check the thigh meat. I remove the bird @ 160-170 b/c it will continue to cook while it's resting.
Putting cut-up vegetables in the pan makes the juices taste better when you baste. I don't tend to baste as often as is usually recommended b/c it cools the oven.
Bacon? If you use it, put it under the skin. You'll definitely taste it!
Lastly, use a carving or slicing knife. In the photos above the carver is using a chef's or chopping knife. The blade is too thick and wide and will tend to tear up the slices. I have an old Sabatier carbon steel slicing knife that does a great job. Julia Child and I don't like stainless knives.

On November 29, 2009 at 08:51 AM, Greybarn (guest) said...
This recipe worked great! I will use it again next year.

On December 23, 2009 at 07:33 PM, JonB (guest) said...
Subject: Never Ending Brining Saga...
I have always used garbage bags to brine my birds. I never gave consideration to leaching. Great info. I went out and got a 15 gallon tub. Thanks to all for the tip. Have a Merry.

On January 22, 2010 at 03:10 PM, sheltonclan (guest) said...
Subject: Roast Turkey...slow dangerous, or not?
I turn to you, my engineer cooking friends, with this problem - hopeful that somebody will know the "scientific" answer. The USDA recommends about 170 as the internal temp. for a cooked bird. MY favorite recipe is the slow roasted way...start at 350 for an hour, then down to 200 for hours and hours. The USDA - and others I have read, including my beloved cookbook - tell me this is dangerous.

Yet, we slow roast other meats - such as crown rib roast. And we are only getting the interior temp to 170 why do we care how long it takes it to get there?

I would really like an unbiased, honest answer. Can you tell I'm having trouble giving up granny's method? It just TASTES better...with meat so juicy it falls off the bone!


On November 21, 2010 at 10:26 AM, an anonymous reader said...
I have used this recipe/technique every Thanksgiving for the past 3 years! I am a relatively confident/competent/proficient cook, but until I discovered this turkey technique my Thanksgiving birds have always turned out "good." After finding this I was delighted with that first result and have never looked back since. Every November finds me in the kitchen with my laptop on the counter, open to this page. Thank you so much for this! I LOVE it! And my family does too! Happy Thanksgiving!

On November 23, 2010 at 11:51 PM, jkennedy@condorearth (guest) said...
Subject: TURKEY1111
How about Wild turkey?

On November 24, 2010 at 05:16 PM, newbietewbie (guest) said...
Subject: brine bucket
No wonder people are getting cancer! One guy on here says he doesn't want to poison his turkey but then suggests using a paint bucket to brine the bird in! Astonishing! Please use your heads people. You can get a food grade bucket at the bakery section of most grocery stores. Just ask for a icing bucket. (good for storing shelf stable foods too) They will throw them out anyway. Clean out the icing and your good to go. Other industrial plastic buckets have chemicals in the plastic that is not good for food. Happy Thanksgiving!

On November 25, 2010 at 03:59 AM, dbldutch (guest) said...
Subject: brining container
We put the turkey in an unused garbage bag with the brining solution inside. We then place this in the refrigerator - preferably a vegetable bin. This way it stays cold, the water is captured if leaking or spilling occurs, and I don't need a special container.

On November 25, 2010 at 08:12 PM, GeekSmith (guest) said...
Subject: Great recipe!
Followed the recipe almost exactly and I'm very pleased with the results. My turkey was pre-brined, so I just washed and dried it Make sure you take the temperature, as that's the only way to know it's done. I'm more a "function" and less of a "form" kind of guy, so I roasted breast-down until the last 25 minutes or so. The turkey was flavorful, juicy, and everybody loved it. Thanks for the great advice!


On November 22, 2011 at 03:26 PM, Roadrash (guest) said...
I have used this recipe for the last 2 years and everyone has really enjoyed it.
I'm really glad I stumbled upon it. :)

Being a Master Dabbler, I'm always wanting to fool with perfection. I have a thought. :unsure:

We usually have smoked cured Ham along side our Turkey dinner and I soak the ham the day before in water to put moister back in it.

i'm wondering if I was to use that same water with the smoke aroma/taste that the ham was in and use it to brine the turkey?

Food for

On November 23, 2011 at 11:15 PM, Kool (guest) said...
Subject: Brining bucket
We used the recycling bin this year and its working great!

On December 14, 2011 at 07:33 PM, justme tang (guest) said...
Subject: thanksgiving turkey goodness
I've gone my brother's house to make Thanksgiving turkey for the last 5 years and he digs this recipe out each year. The pages are now all wrinkled and stained from each past year's prep and cooking of the bird.

My brother brines the turkey overnight, soaking it in one of those restaurant 5-gal plastic pickle buckets with lids. We then rinse and pat dry with towels before we dress the turkey. Hair dryer application not necessary!

We've modified the recipe and do not stuff the bird (it adds 1.5 to 2.0 hours of cooking time since we're feeding a big gang and must bake a larger 22-24 lb turkey). Instead, we chop up chunks of carrots, celery, onions and place them in the bottom of the turkey pan. OMG, the vegetables are so delicious after being cooked in butter, thyme, garlic, olive oil, other seasonings we use to rub and baste the turkey with (but strain the fat/juices out first after vegetables are cooked).

When finishing the turkey breast side up, we sometimes pin a piece of foil over it if the top is browning too fast but the thigh temperature hasn't yet reached 170. This stops the breast from burning before the turkey is all done. Overall, it's best to not overcook it. Can always zap the turkey leftovers in the microwave for the parts that are still slightly pink.

Happy holidays everyone!

On December 15, 2011 at 05:09 PM, natdalton7 (guest) said...
Subject: My First Turkey
I am cooking my first turkey for the holidays and was curious if I could use this recipe but in an 18 quart roaster oven? Would I need to make any adjustments?

[link removed because comment is suspected as spam]

On December 15, 2011 at 05:55 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: My First Turkey
natdalton7 wrote:
I am cooking my first turkey for the holidays and was curious if I could use this recipe but in an 18 quart roaster oven? Would I need to make any adjustments?

I remove the link to the external site from the previous comment because it was unclear to me whether or not it was a legitimate question or an attempt to place a link to a product page. The product linked to was an electric turkey roaster with very little additional information. This recipe will most likely not work perfectly without some adjustments, but, unfortunately, having never used a counter top roasting appliance, I can't say what changes would need to be made. My first guess is that the rotations designed to evenly cook the bird in a conventional oven would need to be altered for the vastly different cooking vessel.

On November 19, 2012 at 11:24 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Please folks, if brining, and i highly recommend it, DO NOT USE TABLE SALT! Table salt contains Iodine. It will make your turkey taste awful!
use Kosher Salt!
If you are brining for a smoked turkey, i recommend adding a cup or more of real maple syrup, some star anise and a fist full of dehydrated chili peppers to the brine. I have brined a turkey for smoking, and one for roasting with these ingredients for over 12 years and poeple can't get enough.
Stuffing can only be made one way, thus the term stuffing. The pale imitations, baked like a casserole, are termed "Dressing". This is the same lazy thinking that lets people misrepresent meat cooked indoors as Barbeque.

On November 21, 2012 at 07:49 PM, joeyzapp (guest) said...
Subject: cooking turkey upsidedown
after preping my turkey or chiken, I then put it in upside down, because alll the juices are in the dark meat at the bottom of the bird, this allows the juices to get into the breast ( usaly the dryest part) depending on size determins how long i cook it up sde down. I eventually turn breast up for final hour or hours, again depending on the size of the bird. I always have people tell me how juicy my birds are, and i think its this reason.....

On December 21, 2012 at 10:33 PM, kellyjo44 (guest) said...
Subject: 24lb turkey- Can I use the same time line and just double it
I have a 24 lb turkey- I am going to follow this recipe- I can double the summery which is for a 12lb turkey but I don't know what to do in regards to cook time? Should I just double all the times on the timeline????? THANK YOU!!!

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