Turkey is a tasty and healthful addition to your diet. Turkey meat is lean and loaded with protein, and vitamins and minerals like B12, niacin, potassium and zinc. Turkey is also an excellent source of tryptophan, the amino acid that induces the post-feast coma many of us experience after holiday parties.
This week’s recipe is for brined air-chilled turkey, just in time for Thanksgiving in the US. It was sent to CCSA as part of a series of emails from our resident chef, Dr. Linda Doody. She has been sharing her extensive collection of favorite recipes with friends, family, and the CCSA team as a means of maintaining connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast.”
Best Way Brined Air-Chilled Turkey
San Francisco Chronicle (November 2013)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1½ to 1¾ cups kosher salt
- 2½ gallons cold water
- 2 bay leaves, torn into pieces
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
- 5 whole allspice berries, crushed
- 4 juniper berries, smashed (A juniper berry is not a true berry, but a cone with unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance. The cones from a handful of juniper species, especially Juniperus communis, are used as a spice, which has a piney, resinous background overlain with "green-fresh" and citrusy notes. The outer scales of the berries are relatively flavorless, so the berries are lightly crushed before using. Juniper berries are available in the spice section of supermarkets and specialty grocers)
- 1 turkey, about 12 pounds
- 2 Tbsp softened butter + butter for basting
- 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup chicken stock + more as needed
- Combine sugar, salt, and 3–4 quarts cold water, and stir until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients except for the rest of the water.
- Remove giblets from turkey, along with any extra internal fat and pin feathers. Rinse well under cold tap water. Put a food-grade plastic bag large enough to hold the turkey into an ice chest. (*Note:* Brining bags for this purpose are sold in some supermarkets, Bed Bath and Beyond, Amazon, etc.) Place turkey in the bag, pour in brine and remaining water; there should be enough liquid to completely cover the bird. Press out the air and tightly close the bag. Keep turkey cold by piling bags of ice over and around the bag; this will also help to keep the turkey submerged. Alternatively, place the turkey and brine in a large pot and refrigerate. If necessary, the bird can be weighed down with a plate and cans to keep it submerged. Brine for 12–24 hours.
- Rinse the turkey and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered 12–24 hours. Turn the bird halfway through the drying time.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread 2 tablespoons softened butter over the skin. Sprinkle pepper over skin and in the cavity. Tuck wing tips under, loosely truss legs, and place turkey on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan. Tent breast with foil. Put turkey in oven. To ensure that the bird cooks evenly, rotate roasting pan 180° every 30 minutes. Roast for about 1 hour, remove foil and baste turkey with ½ cup stock. Return to oven and roast, basting with pan drippings every 20 minutes, using more stock as needed.
- Start checking internal temperature after about 1 hour by inserting an instant-read thermometer in the inner meatiest part of the thigh (adjoining the drumstick and alongside the breast), not touching the bone. If legs or breast begin to get too brown, cover loosely with foil. Roast until internal thigh temperature reaches 165°F. Total roasting time should be about 2 to 2¾ hours. Let the bird rest for at least 20–30 minutes before carving.
- Notes: Bigger birds can be brined and air-dried following the same recipe; just follow the maximum amounts of time for brining and drying (24 hours).
- Birds more than 16 pounds should be roasted at a lower temperature—350°F. Cover the breast tightly with foil for the first half of the cooking time, then remove the foil and baste with stock and pan drippings every 30 or 40 minutes for the remainder of the time. An 18-pound bird should be done in about 4 hours, or when the thigh temperature reaches 170°F.
- Stuffing a brined turkey is not recommended because the salty drippings soak into the dressing. If you must stuff a brined bird, do not season the stuffing with salt.