Never have a dry turkey again. Ever.

Seriously, I mean it.

I first posted this recipe in 2018, though I had been making my turkey this way for years, and people still ask me for it.

If you are shopping this weekend for your Thanksgiving menu, add the ingredients to your list and create the most moist and flavorful turkey you have ever had.

You'll have the added benefit of filling your whole house with the delicious smells of the season as you cook this brine made with apple cider and savory herbs.

A 12-pound turkey is listed in this recipe, but I have adjusted the ingredients to accommodate a bird as big as 22-pounds. It's best to increase your measurements by a third for every additional 3-pounds of turkey. It's better to have more brine than you will need, since you need to cover the turkey completely with the mixture.

The roasted herbs in the bottom of the pan after you remove the turkey make a gravy that is the ideal compliment to your perfectly moist and tender bird.

Enjoy, and please let me know if you make this. I'd love to hear your family's reaction.

Brine:

  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice, coarsely crushed
  • 8 (1/8-inch-thick) slices peeled fresh ginger
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 (12-pound) fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 6 cups ice

Remaining ingredients:

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 4 parsley sprigs
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

Preparation

To prepare brine, combine first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.

Remove giblets and neck from turkey; reserve for Herb Gravy. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Stuff body cavity with orange quarters. Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a second bag to form a double thickness. Place bags in a large stockpot. Place turkey inside inner bag. Add cider mixture and ice. Secure bags with several twist ties. Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 500º

Remove turkey from bags, and discard brine, orange quarters, and bags. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Place garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, onion, and broth in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place roasting rack in pan. Arrange turkey, breast side down, on roasting rack. Brush turkey back with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 500º for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350º

Remove turkey from oven. Carefully turn turkey over (breast side up) using tongs. Brush turkey breast with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 350º for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 170º (make sure not to touch bone). Remove turkey from oven; let stand 20 minutes. Reserve pan drippings for gravy.

Gravy

Place the turkey neck and giblets into a large sauce pan and add 3-cups of water. Simmer for 20 - 25 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the liquid to cool slightly.
Remove the neck and giblets and discard. (You can pick the meat off the neck and add to the sauce)
Place your roasting pan (with all the remaining herbs and drippings) on the top of the stove and set a burner to medium heat.
Add the liquid to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spatula to scrap all the bits.
Once the pan is deglazed, use a hand blender to puree all the remaining herbs until you have a smooth mixture.
Taste the sauce to see if salt and pepper are needed.
Once you have a sauce you like, thicken with potato starch or powdered mashed potatoes.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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