Brine-Cured Roast Turkey

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A big turkey is so spectacular you hardly need to do anything to embellish it. But brining can be that extra touch that makes it so juicy and flavorful that you’ll remember it for years to come. Brining the turkey takes 3 days so you’ll need to plan ahead, but the lengthy brining time really pays off with fabulous flavor. Make sure you start with an all-natural bird without any added water and sodium solution. (Recipe adapted from Alice Waters.)

Brine-Cured Roast Turkey
photographer: Ken Burris
Nutritionist Tested & Approved

Time: 180 minutes (70 minutes prep)

  • 3 gallons water , divided

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1 cup kosher salt

  • 2 carrots , chopped

  • 2 large onions , chopped

  • 2 leeks , dark tops trimmed off, chopped

  • 1 small stalk celery , chopped

  • 4 bay leaves

  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • 4 star anise

  • 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 1 12- to 14-pound naturally fed, free-range turkey

  • 1 large sprig rosemary for basting

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for basting

  1. Bring 1 gallon water to a boil in a large nonreactive pot that will hold your turkey and fit in your refrigerator (see Tip). Stir in sugar and salt until completely dissolved. Turn off the heat. Stir in carrots, onions, leeks, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander, crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, star anise and thyme. Add the remaining 2 gallons water. Place the turkey in the brine and weight it with a plate, if necessary, so it stays below the surface. Refrigerate for 72 hours.

  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.

  3. Remove the turkey from the brine, brush off any briny bits and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (discard the brine). Tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Place the turkey on a roasting rack set in a large roasting pan.

  4. Roast the turkey until the skin starts to brown, about 40 minutes. Use rosemary sprig to baste the turkey with oil. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue roasting the turkey, basting with more oil about every 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh without touching bone registers 165°F, 1 to 1 1/2 hours more, depending on the size of the turkey. If the skin begins to darken too much, cover it loosely with foil.

  5. Carefully transfer the turkey to a large, clean cutting board; let it rest, loosely covered with foil, for 20 minutes before removing the string and carving.

Kitchen Tip: If you do not have a pot large enough to hold the turkey plus the 3 gallons of brining liquid, bring 1 gallon of water to a boil in a smaller pot, add the flavorings (Step 1), then transfer the brine to a clean large bucket or medium cooler (small enough to fit in your refrigerator). Add the remaining 2 gallons water and the turkey. To fit the brining turkey into your refrigerator, you may need to remove a shelf or two.

Nutritional Facts

Serving Size
3 ounces
0 g
4 g
Saturated Fat
1 g
25 g
65 mg
Dietary Fiber
0 g
253 mg
96 mg
10 servings
plus leftovers
3 1/2 lean meat
20% daily value

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