Since we raise our own turkeys on our homestead, I love to roast them for more than just Thanksgiving. We actually will have a whole turkey 3-4 times a year, usually in Fall or early Spring when the oven can be on for more than 6 hours without overheating the house. The comforting smell, the gentle heat from the oven, and the promised juiciness of the roasted bird all bring to mind memories.
Memories of family gatherings, laughter and fun. Playing cards with my siblings and cousins, or talking football with my uncles. Memories of my mother, grandmother, and aunts working for 8 hours solid in the kitchen to provide a meal that will take a mere 20 minutes to eat. Don’t get me started on all the cleanup!
The best way to get a juicy bird? Brine your turkey for 24 hours first, then roast it breast side down.
Forget the plastic turkey bags that promise an easy cleanup. You don’t need them if you use this brine recipe.
Why this brine recipe for a turkey? Well, because it helps to break down the meat a bit, adds flavor, and helps to create a moist meat with that tasty crispy skin we all like. Well, in our family we all like it. The crispy skin is nearly fought over tooth and nail, but I digress.
So, how to brine a turkey?
You will need the recipe below, plus a large bucket to fit the turkey in so that it is submerged completely. You can buy these at your local hardware store, or learn how to get them for free Having a turkey submerged in the brine recipe will also require you to have space in your fridge, a cooler, or even the tub for the bucket. Food safety and all. You don’t want the meat to sit at room temp for more than 2 hours, or bacteria can grow.
What we do is place the turkey in the brine and then set it in a cooler. Cover it with either the lid that comes with the bucket or aluminum foil. Fill the cooler with ice, surrounding the bucket as much as possible. To avoid water spilling when the ice melts, we also set the cooler in the bathtub.
After 24 hours, you will remove the turkey from the brine, pat dry and begin to roast. So, you will want to start the brine recipe for your turkey on Wednesday morning for your Thursday Thanksgiving meal. Roast your turkey breast side DOWN to allow the juices to drip into the white meat. This will help keep it from drying out.
As the turkey roasts at 300 for 20 minutes per pound, you will want to baste it every 45 minutes or so. Just run a ladel to catch the juices that have formed and pour over the meat where you can. Be careful doing that, as it’ll be hot! You can also use a turkey baster if you have one. I never seem to be able to keep one on hand very long, it always disappears for some reason.
When the meat reaches 185 in the thigh, remove the turkey from the oven. Allow to sit under a foil tent for 20 minutes to rest the meat. If you cut into the meat right away, you could lose all the juices. Resting allows the juices to redistribute into the meat and gives you far more moist turkey meat.
Carve and enjoy! Be sure to save the legs whole for that “Renaissance” feel, if you like…