Turkey is one of my favorite meats. It has fewer calories than beef or even chicken, and no saturated fat. So when you’re stuffing yourself at holiday time, you won’t feel as guilty. I always make a whole turkey even though my family are “white meat only” eaters, as a whole turkey makes such a pleasing presentation when brought to the table. Brining in my opinion is a must when making chicken, turkey and even pork chops. The meat is much more flavorful, juicy and tender, no question. A brined turkey also takes a slightly shorter time to cook than a turkey that is not brined. In the case of a Thanksgiving Turkey, I always start with a high quality turkey such as a Bell & Evans. I brine with a solution of 1/2 cup table salt to as gallon of cold water. I put the turkey in a zip top brine bag and sit it into a pan vertically. I fill as much as possible with the brine and put in the fridge Wednesday morning. Take out of the brine Wednesday early evening. Dry off the turkey and leave in the fridge uncovered so it is nice and dry. This ensures the skin will get nice and brown when roasting. Make sure to keep a temperature of below 40 degrees when brining. If you cannot fit in your refrigerator, put in a cooler and ice pack. It’s also important to use a probe thermometer… opening the oven continuously only cools off the oven and slows the cooking time, not to mention the constant poking with an instant thermometer releases the juices from your turkey, the very thing the brining process is trying to enhance.
This year I did just that. I do not stuff the turkey as I usually cook a very large turkey and that will only add more time to an already long cooking time, not to mention the risk of the stuffing falling into your gravy broth is eliminated. I put the turkey into an oiled v rack. I add cut celery, carrot, onion & thyme to the cavity of the turkey. In the roasting pan, I add some onion, carrot & celery and about an inch or so of low-salt chicken broth. Add some thyme, parsley, pepper and basically any seasonings you would like (I do not season with salt as the brine has salt and so does the broth). Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees (National Turkey Federation does not recommend cooking below 325 degrees), until an hour short of time for your size turkey. Take off foil and bake the rest of the time until the skin browns and a instant meat thermometer reads 180 degrees for thigh meat and 170 degrees for breast meat. Make sure to watch the broth mixture at the bottom so as not to dry out. Add more chicken broth if necessary.
I will say, this years turkey was the most flavorful, tender and juicy turkey I have had. And that was the consensus of my family as well.