With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away it is about time to determine just how you are gonna cook that tasty bird. I’ve had deep-fried turkey (good), smoked turkey (even better), but my favorite way to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving (or even Christmas) is brined and roasted. Yes, I’ll admit that I borrowed the original recipe from the amazing Alton Brown a few years ago, but I’ve made some minor (and delicious) changes, oh yes.
Start with a 14 to 16 pound turkey. You can use a smaller bird or a turkey breast, but be sure to reduce the other ingredients proportionally. You’ll also need a 5 gallon bucket.
1 cup of salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tbsp allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1/2 cup cognac
1 gallon iced H20
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 sage leaves
So what you want to do is combine all the brine stuff (except the iced water) in a pot and bring it to a boil. Stir until the solids are dissolved, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until chilled. It is generally best to do this the night before. Save a little bit of the cognac for yourself and have a drink while you’re at it.
Early on the day of cooking, combine the brine (what you made above) and ice water in the clean 5 gallon bucket. Mix it up and place the thawed turkey breast side down in the bucket, cover, and refrigerate or set it in a cool place for 6 hours. It is generally pretty chilly here around Thanksgiving so on the back porch works for me.
Just before you are ready to roast, heat your oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water and microwave on high for about 5 minutes. Once you get the aromatics in the microwave, remove the bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place your turkey on a roasting rack inside a wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add the aromatics you just microwaved to the cavity of the bird along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck back the wings and coat the bird liberally with canola oil.
Roast your bird on the lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven and cover breast with a double layer of aluminum foil and return it to the oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound turkey should require 2 to 2-1/2 hours of roasting. Use a probe thermometer if you’ve got one and set it for 161 degrees. Let your bird rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.