My Favorite Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey is a Thanksgiving tradition. Most people prepare one whether they like it or not. Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without this wild bird representing the bounty of our forefather’s hunt. I’ve been cooking a Thanksgiving meal for over 25 years and have experimented with many recipes all claiming to produce the perfect bird. They all turned out about the same until I tried this recipe about 5 years ago. It has been on my table ever since. I am glad to let you in on the secret and hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Yes, it is a labor of love, but well worth it! Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy!

PS: I’ve altered the original recipe slightly

Alton Brown’s Brine Turkey


1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 gallons vegetable stock

1 Tablespoon black peppercorns

1 Tablespoon allspice berries

3 Tablespoons chopped candied ginger

For the aromatics:

1 red apple, sliced

1/2 onion, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup water

4 sprigs rosemary

6 leaves sage

Canola oil


3-4 days before roasting:

Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

1-2 days before roasting:

Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 24-48 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

(I roast in a Reynold’s browning bad as directed until the pop-up tester pops. The brining process cuts down on cooking time.)

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, also featured in Food Network Magazine

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