Special notes: Look for a fresh, young turkey that hasn’t been treated with anything. I prefer to buy a turkey that’s never been frozen so that I don’t have to deal with the thawing process days in advance. If purchasing frozen, give yourself at least 3 days to thaw a 12 lb. turkey in the fridge. This recipe requires special tools—a Turkey Roasting Bag or Brining Bag large enough for your turkey. The ratios are written for a 12 lb. bird. Scale up or down based off the size of your turkey. For alternate cooking times, check out this friendly diagram from Real Simple.
- 1 1/4 c. coarse kosher salt*
- 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
- 1/2 red onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- large bunch of thyme (or mixture of rosemary and sage)
- 2 tbsp. peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- peels of 2 oranges
- 10 c. water, divided, plus more as needed
- 12 lb. Fresh Young Turkey, thawed
- olive oil
At least 25 hours before cooking or up to 48 hours, make the brine. In a medium saucepan, add all the brine ingredients and only 4 cups of the water. Cook over medium heat just until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat and add 6 cups of cold water. The cold water will help to cool the brine solution more quickly. Ice cubes welcome too.
While the brine cools, prepare the turkey. First, clear a space in the fridge for the turkey to rest. Next, remove remnants from the cavity and discard or save for later use. Line a large stock pot or an emptied crisper drawer with a turkey roasting bag or a brining bag. Gently place the turkey into the bag. Add the cooled brine into the bag and top off with enough water to just cover the entire turkey. It’s really not necessary to measure. (Note: This is usually a two person job). Tightly tie the bag closed. Place in the fridge for 24 hours.
On the day of, one hour before cooking, remove the turkey from the fridge. Set out the roasting pan fitted with the roasting rack near the sink. Also, place a trash can next to the sink. Meanwhile, carefully place the brining bag with the turkey into the sink. Snip a couple holes in the bag to drain the liquids. Meanwhile, remove the turkey from the bag, drip dry, and place on the prepared roasting pan. Pat the turkey completely dry with paper towels and allow to dry for about 1 hour before going into the oven. Toss the brining bag and paper towels in nearby trashcan.
Roast the turkey. About 15 minutes before roasting, preheat the oven to 325°F. Using a basting brush, evenly coat the exterior of the turkey in olive oil. Place a leave-in thermometer in between the leg and deep into the breast but not touching the bone. Cook until the temperature reaches 165°F (about 3-3 1/2 hours). Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Tip: lightly drizzle a bit of the pan drippings over the meat for added flavor after carving. Serve.
*Kosher Salt is recommended for this recipe. Other varieties of salt will vary in measurements.