Thursday, November 25, 2010

Brined Turkey and gravy from Alton Brown

This year we were actually super traditional (for us anyway) in our Thanksgiving feast.  We actually had Turkey. Our pies were pumpkin and apple, we had stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans ...  Just good and traditional
DH and I aren't the biggest fans of turkey, and usually vote not to do turkey, but when your 11 year old posts on facebook to his aunt that he looooves turkey!  and your conversation with your 4 year old goes like this .."what kind of meat are we having on Thanksgiving?"  Him "Turkey."  Your "Why turkey?"  Him "Because that's what you're supposed to have on Thanksgiving."  Well, kind of makes you decide to bite the bullet and actually make turkey.  I actually saw this recipe posted on a couple of different websites, all with wonderful reviews.  It is from Alton Brown, so we went straight to the source and followed what he said there. (This link has both the turkey and the gravy recipe, so I guess I'll include the gravy with this post as well.)
I must say, this is one of the best turkeys we have made.  It was very tasty, juicy, not dry.  It did get a bit crispy on top.  Probably because we didn't put it on the bottom rack of the oven?  That is my only guess.  We put it on the second shelf because we left both racks in the oven.  Other than that, it was wonderful, and not overly difficult to make.  The gravy was very good too, and complimented the turkey very well.  (The turkey was so good, that it took me a few bites to want to eat it with gravy, but once I did, I kept eating it with gravy because it was also very good.)


  • 1 (14 to 16 lb) frozen young turkey (ours was actually only 12, but we only had our family - what are you going to do.  I wasn't sad.
Brine Ingredients
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock (I didn't pay attention to how much I needed and only had 1/2 gallon so I used 1/2 gallon vegetable stock and 1/2 gallon chicken stock.)
  • 1 cup kosher salt (I used 1/2 cup and a Tablespoon or so of regular salt.)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger (chopped this with scissors - so much easier than a knife.)
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water
For the aromatics
  • 1 red apple, quartered  (oops, I chopped mine in smaller slices)
  • 1/2 onion, quartered (I used some DH had already diced yesterday
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary 
  • 6 leaves sage
  • canola oil (I used a blended oil)
  1. Warning - start early on this part - I didn't pay attention to the 2-3 days before roasting part - I somehow just thought that meant only the turkey, but the brine does need to cool, so start early.  To make the brine - Combine vegetable stock (and chicken stock in my case), 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.  Remove brine from heat, cool to room temperature and refrigerate.  (I ended up removing it from heat, adding some ice to start it cooling, letting it cool further, then separating it into 2 containers and putting it in the freezer for an hour to get nice and chilly.)
  2. The night before you want to eat, combine brine, water and ice in a 5 gallon bucket.  Place thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in the brine.  If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover and refrigerate or set in a cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once halfway through brining.  (what we did - Poured the brine back into the very cold stock pot.  Added ice to make 1 gallon of liquid.  Dumped that in to our lined 5 gallon bucket and tossed in the turkey.  When I pushed it down in good, the plethora of ice I had in there kept it immersed.  I was worried about leaving it out and wanted it plenty cold.  There was no room in my fridge for a 5 gallon bucket, and it was a pretty warm evening -had the ac running.  It seemed to work well.  Unfortunately for me, this process took me until 12:30 because I didn't start until after I put the kids to bed - I do NOT recommend that.  Our bird did stay plenty cold though.) 
  3. When ready to cook the bird
  4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees
  5. Remove bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water.  Discard the brine.
  6. Place the bird on a roasting rack inside half sheet pan (we used a roasting pan.) and pat dry with paper towels.
  7. 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 wings under the bird and coat skin with oil.
  8. Roast turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 for 30 minutes.  (I'd keep an eye on this because the top of our bird got a bit too done on top.  We actually covered it for the next part.)  Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350.  Set the thermometer alarm to 161. (Hmm, the recipe at the gravy site says 151.  The recipe on the turkey site says 161.  We used the turkey site and looked up the gravy later.)  A 14-16 lb bird should take 2 to 1 1/2 hours of roasting.  Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Gravy Ingredients (modified correctly by my DH)
  • 24 oz chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 Tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 Tablespoon thyme
  1. Remove turkey from the roasting pan and set aside to rest.  Separate fat and transfer into a sauce pan. Add in chicken stock and spices.  Bring to a boil, then add in flour and use hand mixer to eliminate clumps.  Heat until thick.

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