This was my second shot at brining a turkey and I think this second one was even better than the first! It’s easy, it’s something you can do the day before you eat and it’s not complicated in the least.
But why should you, you might ask? Salt is the key here as it breaks down the proteins and traps water molecules, which results in less moisture loss in the cooking process. Also, the salt seasons the bird inside and out which is always a good thing.
So how do you brine a turkey? (Or a chicken, for that matter?) For every gallon of cold water, you need:
1 1/4 c Kosher salt
1 c brown sugar/honey
You’ll likely need at least 1 gallon to cover the turkey if not 2 gallons.
You can also use any herb or…well, anything you can imagine to flavour that bird! I used lemon & orange wedges this time around.
Dissolve the salt and sugar/honey in the water. You can use a large bag (garbage bags work, believe it or not) or a thoroughly cleaned cooler. Add in the turkey and keep the whole concoction stored somewhere cool for anywhere from 4 – 24 hours. If you’re using a cooler and keeping it inside, throw in a couple of ice packs to ensure that the bird stays nice and cold.
Once you’re ready to cook the turkey, take it out of the brine and rinse it thoroughly. Pat it dry so you get a nice, crispy skin and place it on a cooking rack in your roasting pan. (Or use veggies as a rack if you don’t have one. Those veg will be delicious at dinner!)
Set your oven to 400F.
Grate 1-2 tb orange and lemon zest into 2 tb butter at room temperature. Smear that birdie with your citrus butter. Season with 2tb black pepper but NOT salt. The brine took care of that already. Quarter the lemon and orange you zested and put them in the cavity of the turkey. Next, take a small piece of foil and wrap it around the tips of the wings so they don’t burn.
Toss the bird in the oven and set your timer for 15 minutes. Once that goes off, turn the oven down to 325F. Baste turkey every half hour. You can add water or stock to the bottom of the pan if you need to.
The general rule is that you need to cook turkey 20 minutes per pound but every oven is different. The last hour you anticipate cooking the turkey, check the temp every 15 minutes by sticking a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast or the thigh. You’re aiming for 170F or until the juices run clear. Once you’ve reached that optimal temperature, take the turkey out of the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes. Then slice that sucker up and enjoy!!