There it is, my first ever turkey! So pretty! It turned out beautifully. I was really nervous about doing a turkey for the first time, and I had five people in my house who were counting on it, so I was praying that it turned out okay. Well, it did. My sister-in-law Amy said that it was the best turkey she's ever had. Yay!
I used Alton Brown's recipe, Good Eats Roast Turkey. It's the one he does on his 1999 Good Eats special, Romancing the Bird. It uses the technique of brining to keep the bird moist without any basting.
Good Eats Roast Turkey
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tbsp black peppercorns
½ tbsp allspice berries
½ tbsp candied ginger
1 gallon iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
½ onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5 gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.
A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500°. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.
Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.
Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350°. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 ½ hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.
I pretty much followed the recipe as written. My bird was a bit larger (20 lbs.) so I increased all of the brine ingredients by half.
The only problem I had was that the oil in the bottom of my roaster smoked during the first half hour when I had the oven on 500°. That's when FIL and SIL decided to take Lena for a walk! The house got pretty smoky. It stopped as soon as I turned the oven down to 350°.
Getting ready go into the oven.
A view of the aromatics. Apple, onion, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, and sage.
The best thing about this recipe is that it really does reduce the cooking time required. I had a 20 lb. bird and it only took 3 hours. There is something about how the brine makes it more moist that reduces the cooking time. I'm just glad I didn't have to get up before dawn to put it in the oven!
I will definitely be using this method again next year.