The Best Roasted Turkey Ever

The Best Roasted Turkey Ever

(courtesy of Alton Brown)

In our 25 years of marriage, we have hosted Thanksgiving Dinner all but 2 times and Alton Brown’s recipe for brining the turkey makes the most juicy meat and the best flavored gravy! I have made a few additions of my own (in italics below) and the turkey and gravy come out fail-proof!

For the Brine:

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock (I use water and Vegetable Better Than Bouillon)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the Aromatics:

1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick (or 2-3)
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage (more like 3 stalks)
1 orange, sliced
Canola oil (I make a mixture of softened butter, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp orange extract - Amazing!)

Two to three 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.

The night before: Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. 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 8 to 16 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, orange, cinnamon stick(s), 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 (this is where I use the softened butter mixture - so much better!).

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.

To make my perfect gravy, pour the pan drippings into a stockpot and make sure you scrape up and include any and all bits from the bottom of the pan. Separate the pan drippings to remove the oil layer or use a baster to remove the extra fat. Then make a slurry to thicken the gravy by placing 2 tbsp cornstarch and 2 tbsp water in a small airtight container and shake to combine. While whisking pan drippings over medium-high heat, steadily pour cornstarch slurry into hot dripping and continue to mix until thickened. Taste to see if it needs additional seasoning - I find it doesn’t but if it needs more flavor, add in 1-2 tsp of Chicken or Vegetable Better Than Bouillon.
Jennifer Smelker

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