Look no further; this is the best recipe for perfectly juicy and deliciously tender roast turkey! Step up your turkey game a notch with this amazing recipe (there are lots of step-by-step photos and tips to make it foolproof!).
Every day this week I’ll be sharing a new savory Thanksgiving recipe with you! Last year I did a whole segment on Thanksgiving 101, which includes some of my best-loved Thanksgiving recipes.
This year, however, I’ve been experimenting and branching out and I am so excited about the new recipes, not to mention that the entire week next week is dedicated to Thanksgiving desserts. Hold on to your thighs, it’s going to be good.
First up is the turkey. I have a fantastic 2-hour turkey recipe in the archives but this year I wanted to revisit a brined turkey recipe I made years ago that I remember absolutely loving. So I remade it. And loved it even more.
This is the turkey that will be appearing on our Thanksgiving table this year!
The brined and roasted turkey takes flavor and juiciness to new heights and the aromatics roasted inside the turkey lend a delicious flavor infused in every bite. The brine requires a few unique ingredients and while I will step aside and let you use your own judgment, I will gently recommend splurging on the candied ginger and other dried spice berries.
Each ingredient really makes a difference and this is Thanksgiving after all! Let’s all live a little and buy candied ginger. (P.S. Candied ginger can be much cheaper if you find it online and order it in advance – I bought a 16 oz. bag on amazon.com for a pretty reasonable price and I am freezing the rest of the bag to use in other unique recipes that come my way!)
I can’t underestimate the gloriousness of good turkey for Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite part of the meal, no doubt about that. (See a few step-by-step pictures below the recipe!)
I’ve also included my personal method for making the turkey gravy. I know there are many other more involved techniques/recipes but this is the way I like to do it.
It is simple and fairly quick but it produces a smooth, tasty gravy that gets slurped up quickly!
Pan drippings from roasted turkey (about 1/4 cup), fat separated and discarded
2 cups chicken/turkey/vegetable stock or broth
Salt and pepper to taste
About 4-5 days before roasting, take the turkey out of the freezer (if using a fresh turkey, you can omit this step and just keep the turkey refrigerated), and place it in a 9X13-inch pan or larger to catch any raw turkey juices and place the pan in the refrigerator to thaw.
1-2 days before roasting, combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until ready to use.
The night before roasting, combine the brine, water and ice in a large bucket (5-gallon or larger). Remove the innards from the turkey and place the thawed turkey breast side down in the brine. The turkey should be fully submerged in the liquid and ice. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in a cool area for 8 to 16 hours. Because I live in a cold climate, I usually stick my brining turkey on the back porch or in the garage, after I have made sure it will be cool enough to keep the turkey safe from high, warmer temperatures.
Move an oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on a roasting rack inside a half sheet pan or roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to roast for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the internal temperature of the turkey is 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.
For the gravy: In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Brown the turkey neck and giblets in the oil, turning every few minutes, until they are well browned and there are little browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Remove the giblets and neck and discard. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the butter to the pot and let it melt, stirring and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the flour and pan drippings (separate the fat from the pan drippings before adding or else the gravy will be too greasy) and stir to combine. Cook over medium-low or medium heat, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes, until the butter/flour mixture is golden. Slowly whisk in the broth and cook over medium heat, stirring or whisking often, for about 10-15 minutes until the gravy has thickened and is bubbly and hot. Season with salt and pepper.
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Here is the bucket I used for brining the turkey. It’s a bucket that used to house 45 pounds of wheat. It was empty and sitting in my storage room so I washed it out and used it for brining. You can also buy large buckets like this at many home improvement stores (make sure to wash well before using). If they don’t come with a lid, use a large sheet pan.
After brining, rinse the turkey inside and out and place on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Do you notice how those little turkey wings are sticking straight up in the air?
Let’s get a closer look…
Those little wingy-dings need to get tucked underneath the turkey. Gently lift up the body of the turkey and bend the wings back and tuck them under.
It will look like the turkey is just chillin’ with his arms behind his head. You know. Waiting to get roasted and eaten. Ok, bad mental image, but you know what I’m sayin’ right?
Take the steeped aromatics that have been microwaved…
…and using a slotted spoon, transfer them to the cavity of the turkey.
Then get your fresh herbs and stuff them in the cavity, too.
Pack it all in so that all the herbs and aromatics are fully inside the turkey.
Now comes the fun part. Ok, not really. This part kind of gave me the eebie jeebies but it’s necessary. So I sucked it up and slathered the turkey with canola oil until it was shimmery and glossy.