How to Brine and Roast a Turkey




Introduction: How to Brine and Roast a Turkey

About: Hey look! It's Saturn.

A few weeks ago, I read that there was a need for an Instructable on roasting a turkey. So I beat feet to the store and grabbed a gobbler. Several days later, I found karencv's guide to roasting a turkey. Don't that beat all?

Despite this setback, I pressed forward. My technique uses a brine, which differs somewhat from Karen's recipe. Credit to Alton Brown of Good Eats for much of this recipe.

Why brine? A brined bird is juicier, and can be much more flavorful. The meat is amazingly tender--some people will defy that your bird is really finished cooking!

Step 1: Gather the Hardware

I follow AB's recipe fairly closely, with a few important differences. But basically, here's what you'll need:

oven capable of reaching 500F
1 medium-large roasting pan
1 5gal bucket, run thru dishwasher if possible
1 large pan
1 in-oven probe thermometer (with alarm, if possible)
heavy-duty aluminum foil
1 large ladle (helpful, not mandatory)
1 gallon pitcher (helpful, not mandatory)
tray or cookie sheet
paper towels
knife or kitchen shears

Step 2: Gather the Software

"Software" is everything that can be cooked. This includes:

1 turkey (up to 16lbs)
Canola Oil
various old vegetables* (carrots, onions, celery) to line bottom of roasting pan

*If you don't have old veggies, just get a rack for your roasting pan instead.

1 Cup kosher salt
1/2 Cup light brown sugar
1 gal *"stock"
*I made a combination of beef and chicken stock, and apple juice because it was what I had available. You can use these, as well as vegetable broth and other juices that aren't too sweet (i.e. don't use grape or Kool Aid :) The beef stock doesn't harm the flavor.
1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns (or same amount of ground if you have that)
1/2 tablespoon green peppercorns (optional, just add more black pepper if you don't have this)
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries (optional)
1 gallon water + ice

Aromatics (don't do this prep until the day of the baking!):
1 red apple, sliced (gala is nice)
1/2 med onion, sliced (yellow or white is good)
1 cinnamon stick (broken into smaller pieces)
1 Cup water
4 sprigs rosemary (fresh is best)
6 leaves sage (fresh is best, but I only had dry)

Step 3: Combine Brine

Combine all brine ingredients except ice water in a pot or pan and bring to a boil.

Stir to dissolve solids and then remove from heat.

Allow it to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until Thoroughly Chilled.

Step 4: Brine Yer Bird

With a fully-thawed bird, you are now ready to brine. You can do this the night before you plan to bake your bird.

The great thing about a brine is it doesn't make the meat taste salty. That's because the salted water (infused with your added flavors) will begin penetrating the meat as soon as you dunk it. After a few hours, the salt will reach equilibrium, meaning no more salt will be added to the bird from the brine. At that point, leaving the bird in the drink won't make it any saltier.

Clean your sink thoroughly. I use a product called Greased Lightning to remove any gunk. Then I use soap and water and finish with a light bleach spray to sterilize. Then rinse completely.

Set the turkey in the sink and open the sack up. At either end you'll find a bag of goodies. I freeze this and use it later for turkey broth. You can discard it if you prefer. Don't leave these bags in the bird!

Your turkey may also come with a wire leg holder to keep the legs together. It can be tough to remove, so be gentle.

Rinse the turkey inside and out.

Now for the brine...

Drop some ice cubes into the bucket to make it easier to set the turkey down.

Then place the bird in the bucket breast-down.

Pour in the brine. I used a ladle to keep down the mess.

Add ice and top off with water.

The cavity of the turkey should also fill up with brine, so you might have to jiggle the turkey to get it to fill up.

Cap the bucket and put it in a cool place for 6 to 8 hours.

Step 5: Ready to Bake...@ 500F!

Take your turkey out of the brine and discard the brine. Rinse the turkey inside and out, and then dry using paper towels inside and out.

Take this time to form the aluminum triangle to the breast meat. Set that aside.

Move the rack in your oven to its lowest position and set to 500F. That's right...500F.

For the aromatics...combine apple, onion, cinnamon stick, rosemary and sage in a microwave safe container. Add a bit of water and nuke it for 5 minutes on high while you do the next steps.

Break or roughly chop the old vegetables (celery, carrot, onion) and cover the bottom of your roasting pan. This keeps your turkey off the bottom of the pan. If you have a rack that fits the roaster, you can use that instead.

Add a little water to the pan (this step will prevent oil from burning during the 500F phase, and won't steam the bird at all).

Set the bird on a nonslip surface (in the roaster is ok, but I happen to have a plastic tray and paper towels instead). Trim off the neck and tail fat. These can go into turkey broth later, but will burn if not trimmed now.

Now lift up the wing and tuck it under (see pictures). This helps the gobbler sit in the roaster.

Coat the entire outside of the bird with canola oil. Don't be chicken--just use your hands like I did.

Use tongs to stuff the cavity with your steamed aromatics.

Bake your Tom Turkey for 30 minutes at 500F. This will make him brown up nicely! If you get any smoking, turn on your blower or open some windows. But you shouldn't if you added the water like I said ;)

Step 6: Remove, Probe, ReLoad...Eat!

After 30 minutes, the turkey is ready to come he can go right back in.

Lower temp to 350F.

Insert the probe thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey breast. Be careful not to hit bone. If you do, just back out a little bit (don't make a bunch of holes!).

Set the thermometer to alarm at 161F.

Carefully cover the breast with the aluminum foil triangle...don't burn yourself!

Return the turkey to the oven, minding the probe cable--don't crimp it.

If you don't have a probe, a 14 to 16 lb bird will take about 2 1/2 hours to bake. Use an instant read thermometer to take the temperature of the thick part of the breast after that time. If it's at 160ish, pull it out.

Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes before carving. Do Not pull out that stupid popup timer before then!

Bon apetit!

Be the First to Share


    • Make It Bridge

      Make It Bridge
    • Big and Small Contest

      Big and Small Contest
    • For the Home Contest

      For the Home Contest



    15 years ago on Step 2

    I started brining a few years is THE best way to cook turkey and chicken. One not let your mother put lemon on the skin so that "it comes out nice and brown" was the one time my turkey did not come out great. It was ok, but not great. This instructable look slike a good recipe and I'll be trying it soon.


    Reply 15 years ago on Introduction

    Ha ha...I've never heard of the lemon juice trick. Does it make the skin taste sour?


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 2

    Some Turkey's are prebrined, check ingredients. I stuff my birds with oranges or lemons, or both. And I bake breast side down. And baste baste baste. Oranges give a richer flavor, lemons lemony, but not at all sour. !/8 tsp of salt per pound, btw. Good instructable, vege's on the bottom would make amazing soup broth and gravy! Thanks for all the great tips.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    That's were I saw how to do this recipe...I did it last year and turned out to be the best Turkey I have ever had....I actual had some of the breast meat.......Great Job.......Thanks


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the info, I'm sure it will come out great thanks to your advice.


    13 years ago on Step 2

    Haha, you got this from good eats like I did, didnt you?


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Sure!  I have been a GE fan from the start.  But note I have my bird sitting on a bed of old veggies and a little water instead of a rack.  When I did AB's recipe as-is, my oven smoked like a 3-alarm.  Add a little water to the bottom of the pan and it keeps the rendered fat from burning.  Oh, and the apple juice gave this bird a beautiful mahogany hue...tasty!


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Injecting a bird with salt water or salt water and spices added works good because the salt has a tendency to make the skin soft and spongy. For crispy skin inject.


    15 years ago on Step 6

    Your MOST welcome!! You have a GREAT T Day too!


    15 years ago on Step 6

    The best most concise instructions. Even a non-kitchen oriented person could cook a bird with these great pictures and directions.


    Reply 15 years ago on Step 6

    Hey, thanks! I'm glad you like it. Happy T'Day!


    15 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! I'm bookmarking this for thanksgiving or Christmas, looks tasty.


    Reply 15 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I hope it works well for you. When I did my first brined turkey, I followed Alton Brown's recipe exactly. The bird sat in rack above a bare roaster pan and smoked like a 3-pack-a-day-habit. It was less than 40F outside, and I didn't have a blower. So we opened all the doors and windows and cracked the oven enough to let out the smoke. The fire house was less than a block away and I heard them test their sirens...I almost died of embarrassment. Since then, I do the old veggie trick.