Martha Stewart, the American cookery goddess says: "Soaking a turkey overnight in a solution of salt and water ensures moist results. When you add aromatics to the brine, the resulting roast is also infused with a subtle character all its own"
I've experimented with a similar recipe using chicken and I have to agree!
Allow 2 days for the preparation and cooking of this festive recipe.
- 3.8 kg whole turkey [8.5 lb] - see Chef's notes
- 2 tablespoons of (1/2 stick) butter to coat skin of turkey
- ½ gallon of water
- 2 cups salt
- ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of peppercorns
- 2 gallons of ice water (50% ice)
- In 1/2 gallon of water, combine the salt and brown sugar for the brine and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add to 5 gallon bucket.
- Add the remaining ice water.
- Remove neck, and giblets and the Parson's nose from turkey and put in 5 gallon bucket. If brine won't cover turkey add a little more water.
- Put bucket in a cold area for 6 to 24 hours.
- The tricky thing about cooking poultry is that the dark meat needs to be about 15 degrees hotter than the white meat. White meat is safe to eat at 165°F (73.9°C), which is the temperature at which salmonella instantly dies. (Though 12 minutes at 140°F (60°C) will kill it as well, so odds are fairly good that, for a roast, you'll kill it all on the way to 165°F (73.9°C)) The problem is that dark meat isn't very good at 165°F (73.9°C). Further complicating this is that if the breast meat gets to the 180°F (82.2°C) that the dark meat wants to be cooked to, it's going to be dry, flavourless, and generally unpleasant.
- The white meat parts of the turkey are the breasts and wings. The dark meat are the thighs and drumsticks. Now, the wings and drumsticks are going to cook a bit faster than the bits of meat that are better attached to the bird. That said, you want the drumsticks cooked more, so don't worry so much about them. The wings, however, are probably worth attaching more firmly to the bird. You can do this by imagining you were twisting someone's arm behind their back. Do this with both wings. Once you figure out the right twist, you'll find that the tips of the wings will stay firmly in place near the centre of the back of the turkey (near its backbone).
- Preheat the oven to 260°C (500°F - Gas10 -Extremely hot. (You'll drop the temperature later, but start it hot to get a crispier, more flavourful skin. The effect will be to keep the fat from melting and rolling down the side of the turkey, which is only going to dry it out.) Roast at lowest level of the oven.
- Place the turkey drumstick side down on a roasting tray (with slots to allow drippings through into a pan), or on a rack sitting in a pan. You will need a basting tool to get the drippings from this pan throughout the roasting process.
- Place the turkey in the oven.
- After about 30 minutes, drop the heat to 350 °F (176.7°C), remove from oven and put a tent of aluminium foil loosely over the breast of the turkey. This is going to keep the breast meat from overcooking and drying out.
- For optimum safety and uniform doneness, it is recommended to cook stuffing outside the bird.
- The internal temperature should be checked with a food thermometer and the breast must reach a minimum of 161 °F (71.67°C) before removing it from the oven. The thigh, ideally, will be around 180°F (82.2°C) at this point. It should take about 2 ¾ to 3 hours to reach this temperature, a 14-16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2hours of roasting.
- Let the bird stand 15-20 minutes before carving.
This recipe will work well with any sized turkey, from 3.8 kg [8.5 lb] to 6.3 kg [14 lb]
- A comprehensive guide to roast meat cooking times - give the time you want to carve your roast and we'll give you a timed step by step roasting guide
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