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How to Make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey

Thanksgiving will be here in no time and something that people often struggle with, is how to make the turkey. Here is how I make perfect turkey – every time.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Many of you know that Autumn is my favorite season. I love the change in the weather – the cooler temperatures, the smell of the turning leaves – and yes, they do have a beautiful perfume that floats in the crisp air. The flavors of pumpkin, apple and cinnamon that become prevalent everywhere you look.

My favorite holiday in the whole year is Thanksgiving. I have incredibly fond memories from my childhood, of sitting around the table with all of its leaves in it, playing board games and listening to laughter and family stories as we digested our big supper and waited for “room for dessert” to appear. And the food? Oh my!

There is no guilt at all, and no qualms about eating all of the casseroles, juicy turkey and rich desserts. Thanksgiving dinners don’t have calories, didn’t you know that?

One of the most challenging things about the Thanksgiving supper for many, is how to make the turkey. Today I am sharing how I make my roasted turkey. It starts with a simple brine, is roasted at an unusually high temperature, but is the juiciest turkey you have ever had. And the best part, is that it has turned out perfectly every single time I have made it this way.

Now I know that some people may be upset that the stuffing isn’t cooked inside the turkey, but just call it dressing and bake it in a dish. Seriously – when you see how much faster the turkey bakes, you’ll see how worth it it is!

To begin, in a large stock pot, combine 3 cups of apple juice and 2 gallons of water.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Add in 1 cup and a half of kosher salt, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a tablespoon each of whole peppercorns and crushed rosemary leaves (1/4 cup if using fresh) and 5 bay leaves.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Cut the peels off of 3 oranges. Toss the peels into the stock pot. Squeeze the oranges into the stock pot and then toss them in as well. Peel an onion, cut it into wedges and add it to the stock pot.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Bring everything up to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve all of the salt. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. That will take a while, but be patient.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

When the brine is cooled, place your turkey, neck end down, into a food safe 5 gallon bucket. Carefully pour the brine into the bucket with the turkey.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Cover the bucket with foil or a lid (if you have one) and place the bucket into a tub of ice to keep everything cold. Allow the turkey to soak in the brine for 24 hours. Monitor your ice tub and add ice if you need to.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Now to roast this lovely bird!

Lower your oven racks to position the turkey in the middle of the oven. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.

Yes, you read that right. Trust me.

Also – make sure you start with a clean oven. If you turn it to 500 degrees and your oven wasn’t clean, you’ll have a smelly kitchen!

When you are ready to bake your bird, carefully pull it out of the bucket and rinse it under cold water in the sink (inside and out). Set it in the sink over a rack to allow any excess liquid to drain out. Pat it dry with paper towels and then place it in your roasting pan.

In the cavity of the turkey, place 2 apples (cut into wedges), an onion (peeled & cut into wedges), 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Slice a stick (1/2 c) of cold, unsalted butter into about 8 or 10 slices. Slide your hands under the skin, over the turkey breasts and make a space in there – but be sure not to puncture the skin. Place half of the butter on each side, spread out over the turkey breasts.

Grab some kitchen twine and tie a piece around the turkey, pinning the wings against the sides. This keeps the wings from overcooking and the tips from burning. Rub 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil all over the outside of the turkey.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Place your turkey in the oven. I highly recommend using an in-oven baking thermometer that you can monitor from outside the oven. (Like this one, this one or this one.) The probe should be placed in the thickest part of the turkey breast.

Bake the oven at the high temperature for 30 minutes. After about 15 – 20 minutes, begin keeping any eye on the turkey. When the turkey is getting near the color you would like it to be, carefully pull the roasting pan out of the oven. Cover the turkey with a tent of foil, and then return it to the oven and continue the baking time.

After the 30 minutes of baking at the high temperature, reduce the heat to 350 degrees. A 15-16 pound turkey will be done in about 2 1/2 hours. Your roasting time will be based upon the size of your turkey. Trust your thermometer.

When your turkey reaches 165 degrees on the thermometer, remove it from the oven. It is done! Now just let it rest – still covered with the foil – for 15-20 minutes.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

Enjoy the juiciest, best turkey you’ve ever had. The meat is juicy, the skin is crispy and it is done way quicker than a stuffed bird at 325. Once you make it this way, I doubt you’ll ever want to go back to the “old” way again.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

This was the turkey that I made last year, in 2014 for Thanksgiving. We found out late the night before that Mamaw (my mother-in-law) was in the hospital up in Tennessee. So Thanksgiving morning we got up super early, made Thanksgiving dinner – casseroles and all, and then packed it all up and got on the road. That evening we had Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family there in the hospital room. The turkey was still moist, the casseroles were delicious and the pies were perfect. When the family needs you, you do what needs to be done!

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

The hubby helping me get every last bit of meat off of the turkey.

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

I can not wait to have this turkey again in just a few weeks!

How to make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

How to Make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey

How to Make Perfect Brined & Roasted Turkey

Yield: 1 turkey
Prep Time: 1 days 1 hour
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 1 days 4 hours

This is how I make perfect turkey – every time.

Ingredients

For the Brine:

  • 3 c apple juice
  • 2 gallons water
  • 1 1/2 c kosher salt
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 Tb whole peppercorns
  • 1 Tb crushed rosemary leaves (1/4 c if using fresh)
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 3 oranges
  • 1 onion

For the Turkey:

  • 1 whole turkey (giblets and such removed)
  • 1 stick (1/2 c) cold unsalted butter
  • 2 apples (cut into wedges)
  • 1 onion (peeled & cut into wedges)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. To begin, combine the juice, water, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, rosemary and bay leaves in a large stock pot. Cut the peels off of the oranges. Toss the peels into the stock pot. Squeeze the oranges into the stock pot and then toss them in as well. Peel the onion, cut it into wedges and add it to the stock pot.
  2. Bring everything up to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve all of the salt. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. That will take a while, but be patient.
  3. When the brine is cooled, place your turkey, neck end down, into a food safe 5 gallon bucket. Carefully pour the brine into the bucket with the turkey.
  4. Cover the bucket with foil or a lid (if you have one) and place the bucket into a tub of ice to keep everything cold. Allow the turkey to soak in the brine for 24 hours. Monitor your ice tub and add ice if you need to.
  5. Now to roast this lovely bird!
  6. Lower your oven racks to position the turkey in the middle of the oven. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
  7. When you are ready to bake your bird, carefully pull it out of the bucket and rinse it under cold water in the sink (inside and out). Set it in the sink over a rack to allow any excess liquid to drain out. Pat it dry with paper towels and then place it in your roasting pan.
  8. In the cavity of the turkey, place the apples, onion, fresh rosemary and thyme.
  9. Slice the stick of cold. unsalted butter into about 8 or 10 slices. Slide your hands under the skin, over the turkey breasts and make a space in there – but be sure not to puncture the skin. Place half of the butter on each side, spread out over the turkey breasts.
  10. Grab some kitchen twine and tie a piece around the turkey, pinning the wings against the sides. This keeps the wings from overcooking and the tips from burning. Rub the extra virgin olive oil all over the outside of the turkey.
  11. Place your turkey in the oven. I highly recommend using an in-oven baking thermometer that you can monitor from outside the oven. The probe should be placed in the thickest part of the turkey breast.
  12. Bake the turkey at the high temperature for 30 minutes. After about 15 – 20 minutes, begin keeping any eye on the turkey. When it is getting near the color you would like it to be, carefully pull the roasting pan out of the oven. Cover the turkey with a tent of foil, and then return it to the oven and continue the baking time.
  13. After the 30 minutes of baking at the high temperature, reduce the heat to 350 degrees. A 15-16 pound turkey will be done in about 2 1/2 hours. Your roasting time will be based upon the size of your turkey. Trust your thermometer.
  14. When your turkey reaches 165 degrees on the thermometer, remove it from the oven. It is done! Now just let it rest – still covered with the foil – for 15-20 minutes.
  15. Then carve and enjoy your perfect turkey.
  16. Happy Thanksgiving!

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