Chef Alli’s 3 Easy Steps to a Juicy Thanksgiving Turkey
Brining is the technique of soaking your turkey in a salt water solution. It’s plain and simple: salt causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings as it breaks down the proteins, resulting in the most flavorful, juicy turkey you’ve ever experienced. (And what could be better than that on Turkey Day?) No matter your method of cooking (roasting, deep frying, smoking, grilling, etc) a brined bird is truly the way to go.
Step 1: Prepare the Brine Here’s my recipe – it’s my rendition of an older Alton Brown recipe: 1 1/2 cups kosher salt, 6 oz. orange juice concentrate, 1 quart hot water, 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1 Tbs. peppercorns, 5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary, 10-12 smashed garlic cloves – combine all and stir until salt and sugar is fully dissolved. Add 3 quarts cold water to cool the prepared brine.
Step 2: Submerge Your Turkey in the Brine Using a cooler to brine your bird keeps you from having to find a brining container that will actually fit in your refrigerator, which is sometimes not an easy task!
• Pour the prepared brine mixture into a large, clean, cooler. Submerge bird (rinsed and all giblets, neck, etc. removed from cavity, 16-18 lbs.) breast-side-down in brine. If bird is not fully immersed, add more liquid (broth or water) until nearly covered with brine.
• Fill a couple of gallon bags with ice and place these on top of bird to keep submerged in brine.
• Close the cooler lid and let bird brine (soak) for 8-10 hours. (Exact brining times will vary by taste. Start with 8-10 hours and make changes to subsequent birds.)
Step 3: Cook the Turkey
• Remove bird from the brine cooler and rinse well under cool tap water. (Be sure to toss brine and sanitize cooler.)
• Meanwhile, pat bird dry with paper towels, then rub bird (liberally and lovingly) all over, with canola oil, using your fingertips. Tuck wing tips beneath bird and place, breast-side-up, onto roasting rack in roasting pan.
• Place roasting pan onto lowest rack of preheated 500 degree F. oven; roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F. and remove bird from oven.
• Cover bird with heavy-duty aluminum foil and return to oven; roast for 2 – 2 ½ hours, until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 160 degrees at the center of the breast. Remove bird from oven and allow to rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.
Now You’re Cookin’, Chef Alli