In The Kitchen: A Fool-Proof Turkey

I am willing to bet that turkey recipes are the number one most shared recipes in the country.  Sure, Chocolate Chip Cookies might come in at a close second, but when it comes to turkey– Americans get serious.  We search the web, we scour cookbooks, we ask co-workers, loved ones, and family members to let us in on their secrets.  Google “Turkey Recipe” and you are overwhelmed by 43,800,000 results at any given time.

So I share my turkey secret with you at a great assault.  It may not be better than your mother’s or your uncles, your grandma, or your best family friend, but it is the best I have ever had.  So try it if you dare.  My secret to a fool-proof white meat juicy turkey is —-

Our 2010 Thanksgiving Turkey - 12 Pounds

Brine that bad boy!  Some swear by it, others swear against.  My bet is those that swear against it altered the recipe slightly.  The key with brining anything is equal parts sugar and salt with carefully measured amount of water.  Now as for why or how this secret assures you that your turkey turns out flavorful and juicy, I’ll leave for the experts…

“First, the salt in the brine actually starts to break down tough muscle fibers. When cooked, these muscle fibers don’t tighten as much as they normally would. This creates a more tender mouthfeel and reduces the chewiness in a tough cut of meat.
Secondly, the salt interacts with the proteins in the meat to draw in and retain water within the cells. When you cook the meat, a certain amount of moisture still evaporates, but enough remains to give your meat a the ‘juicy’ texture when eaten.  This is one time when we find our old nemesis “water retention” actually playing a beneficial role!”
Food Science:  How Does Brining Work

So as said in more scientific terms above, by brining your turkey you are flavoring the white meat, the dark meat, the legs, the thighs, how could that go wrong?

Brine & Citrus Herb Roasted Turkey

Turkey Brine

Turkey Soaking in Brine Bath


  • 10-12 pound Turkey
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 2 gallons of water
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar


*IMPORTANT:  You Turkey must be completely defrosted and cleaned before beginning to brine it.  Remember to remove all the gizzards!

To make the brining solution, dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a clean bucket or large stockpot.  Your best bet is to purchase a Brining Bag at your local cooking store.  I recommend using the Brining Bag from Sur La Talbe.  It holds up to a 23 lb turkey and comes in a pack of 2 for $6.99.   Add the oranges, lemons, thyme, and rosemary.  If you have a big turkey and need more brine than this, use ½ cup salt and ½ cup brown sugar for every gallon of water.

Place the pot, bucket, or bag in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours (covered).

When removing turkey from brine.  Run through cold water rinsing off well.  Salt or sugar residue will cause the turkey to brown too fast.  Once cleaned, pat turkey dry.

Aromatic Stuffing:

Aromatic/Flavor Stuffing Ingredients


  • 1/2 bunch of fresh sage
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 large yellow onions
  • 1 carrot, sliced  into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 celery stalks, slice into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 orange
  • 6 tbsp butter


After your turkey has been brined, rinsed, and dried.  Stuff both cavities with a mixture of the above ingredients and lace closed.  This aromatic stuffing is to add more flavor to the turkey as it roasts, not to be eaten.

Stuffed Turkey

Roasting your Turkey

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 4 cups of turkey/chicken broth (homemade is best!)

After you have stuffed both cavities.  Cut the butter into thin slices and place it between breast meat and the skin.

If you haven’t done this before– it’s rather simple.  At the large cavity you will see where the skin and breast meat begin.  Peel back the skin slightly and begin to slide your fingers/hand in between the breast and the skin, work your way toward the back and the legs, breaking the membrane as you go.  Once you have loosened the skin from the meat, slide in your butter slabs.  As the turkey cooks the butter will begin melting into your meat.

Ready to Go Bird

Once you have tied up all your ends place your bird on the V rack in a roasting pan Place 2 cups of turkey/chicken broth in the bottom of the pan and place in the oven.  Cook for one hour and then begin to baste every 30 minutes with chicken or turkey broth until the bird is done.  For appropriate cooking times and temperatures please refer to Let’s Talk Turkey article from Food Safety and Inspection Service.

If your turkey is browning too fast, simply tent it with aluminum foil, to slow the browning.

Do you have a brine recipe?

One thought on “In The Kitchen: A Fool-Proof Turkey

Add yours

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