It seems like a lot of people I know seem to dread making a turkey. People often want a dressing or stuffing, but that makes it easier to dry out the turkey. I was excited this year because my parents let me take over cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving. I wanted to try and come up with a method that would allow me to have stuffing, and still have juicy meat. One of the things I thought I would try (after watching Good Eats) was to brine the bird. I noticed that Alton had two different methods for cooking turkeys (one with stuffing and one without), so I decided to combine them both and then use my parents stuffing recipe. I figured I would post a recipe up to help guide people who might need help next year for Thanksgiving, or want to cook a Turkey during the Holidays.
The recipe my parents have for stuffing is actually from one of my dad’s roommates. My dad tasted the stuffing and asked for the recipe. His roommate’s mother refused to let him have the recipe, but as it turned out when his roommate moved out he accidentally left the recipe. So as fate would have it, my dad got the recipe and now I can share it with you. I really love this recipe, so I decided to skip AB’s recipe for stuffing and go with my parent’s recipe.
I was fairly happy with how my turkey turned out. It definitely turned out to be juicier than my parents usual bird (although theirs was always good). I do feel like I can do better next time I prepare a turkey (which probably won’t be until next Thanksgiving). One of the things I think would be better would be to brine the bird overnight, because I didn’t start the brine until the morning of Thanksgiving (it probably got about 5 hours of brining). Anyways, I would recommend this method to anyone looking for a better way to cook their turkey (especially if you want stuffing). If you don’t care for stuffing I would try AB’s recipe without stuffing. Hopefully this recipe will guide you to a more successful turkey next Thanksgiving.
1 turkey (mine was 16 1/2 lbs)
1 recipe stuffing
vegetable oil (enough to coat turkey)
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied (crystalized) ginger
1 gallon ice water
- Combine the ingredients from the Brine (except the ice water) and place them in a pot and bring to a boil until mixture is homogeneous. Cool to room temperature and pour into a cooler (make sure the cooler isn’t too wide because you want the brine to cover the Turkey). Add the turkey and brine overnight. I would recommend throwing the brine together right before you go to bed. You want to make sure the temperature in the cooler doesn’t get too warm, so in the morning add some more ice to keep it chilled (Below 40 F). If you don’t want to have to worry about that you can get up early the morning of and start the brine. Another note for people who haven’t cooked whole poultry birds before, is that you want to make sure that you remove the innards of the bird. They are usually in a bag inside the cavity. I also removed the neck from the turkey as well.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. I would recommend preheating the oven and then letting it sit for at least 10-15 minutes to allow the sides of the oven to heat (not just the air inside).
- Rinse the bird in the sink and place in a roasting pan. Stuff as much stuffing into the cavity of the bird as you can. There will be leftovers, but you can bake those separately in another pan (it will take about 45 minutes). Rub a coat of vegetable oil onto the bird and place into the oven.
- Roast for 45 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350 F. Now the remaining time will depend on how big your bird is. It will take an additional hour and a half for a 12 pound bird. Mine was 16 and took about 4 hours to bake total. Each additional pound above 12 will add another 30-45 minutes to the total cooking time. The main thing you are looking for here is that the breast meat should be 160 F and the thigh meat should be around 180 F. If you notice that the bird is browning too quickly you can add a sheet of foil covering the breast to slow down browning (I had to do this to prevent the skin from burning).
- Allow the turkey to rest for 15 minutes covered with foil before you cut into it.