How to Roast the
With Flavor Brining
By Martha Matthews
When it comes to finding directions on
how to roast the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, suddenly everyone you know
becomes an expert. Your neighbor, your mail carrier, the waitress at the
restaurant where you have lunch with your girlfriends, your best friend,
the dog groomer, the checker at the grocery store, your hairdresser,
your car repairman (even though he's never cooked a turkey in his life)
and last but not least your pest control man. Everyone has
their two cents worth on the subject. Well, I guess that means I'm in
good company. Here are my instructions on how to cook the best turkey
you'll ever eat.
I am going to let you in on a little
secret. This is the method that the best restaurants use to give their
turkeys incredible flavor. What is the secret? It's called flavor
brining. Yes, that's what they do. Historically brining was done as a
method of preserving. However, today it is used primarily as a vehicle
to impart flavor and moisture into a lean cut of meat.
Here are the steps to brining a
1. Start with a non-reactive container
such as a large food service container or other food-safe
2. Determine the amount of brine mixture
you will need by putting your turkey in the container and covering it
with water. Remove the turkey and measure the remaining water. This is
the amount you will need to make. Discard this water and use fresh water
for your brine.
3. Place your turkey in the container and
cover with the brine (recipe to follow). Refrigerate in the brine for at
least 12 hours or up to two days if desired. If you are concerned about
the bird being too salty, stop after the 12 hour period. Better to err
on the side of less than too much.
4. When the brining process is complete,
rinse the bird well and pat dry. Air dry the bird over-night in the
refrigerator to let the skin dry. This will help in the crisping of the
skin as it roasts. Stuff your turkey as usual and roast according to the
This is a general recipe. You may need to
double the recipe to get enough to cover your bird. Spices may be added
to this mixture to create your own unique flavor.
In a non-reactive container, mix until
dissolved the following ingredients.
1 gallon of cool, water.
1 cup of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (if using Morton's Kosher salt, use
1/2 cup of white or brown sugar
Pour the mixture over the turkey and
Additional spice and seasoning
Add any or all of the following to your brine mixture: bay leaves,
juniper berries, black pepper corns, dried thyme, and garlic
The goal in cooking a turkey is to get
your bird cooked and beautifully browned without drying out the breast.
Here's the problem: white meat cooks faster than dark meat.
Traditionally, the bird is cooked breast-side up. This method causes the
breast meat to cook quickly while the legs that are under the bird cook
slowly. What you end up with is dried-out breast meat in order for the
legs and thighs to be done properly.
So what is the answer you ask? Roast your
turkey breast side down. Now before you brand me a heretic and have me
burned at the stake, hear me out. Yes this is not how your mother or
grandmother did it but I am telling you, once you try this method you
will never go back to cooking your turkey breast-side up again.
Why do it this way? Because when the
breast meat in on the bottom, not only is it protected and cooks a
little slower but all the juices that are in the turkey drain down into
the breast making it moist, tender and juicy. Unless you have your heart
set on a Norman Rockwell presentation, this is the best position in
which to cook your bird. It may not look as pretty as the other, but who
carves their turkey at the table anyway? We never do.
The last tip to the perfect turkey is to
put your bird in the oven and leave it there until it is done.
Calculate the amount of time that it will take to cook your bird, then
put it in the oven and don't peek until the timer goes off. No basting
is necessary. You don't need to baste if you cook the turkey breast-side