Getting Ready for Thanksgiving: Brining a Turkey
Brining a Thanksgiving Turkey

You may have heard friends rave about brining their Thanksgiving turkeys. In this pre-roasting process, you soak a whole fresh (not frozen) turkey overnight in a brine of saltwater and other seasonings.

Chances are you've dismissed the idea of brining as too complicated, or because so much salt might lead to an overseasoned bird. So, please let me assure you that brining is worth trying this Thanksgiving, for several reasons.

First, it's not that complicated. All you need is a stainless-steel stockpot large enough to hold your turkey submerged in the easily prepared brine. And you need to clear a space in your refrigerator to keep the brine pot with the turkey overnight. It's simple as that.

Then there are the actual benefits of brining. It helps carry the seasonings deep into the turkey, resulting in perfectly seasoned meat; but most of the salt remains in the brine when you drain it away. The long soaking also results in juicier meat, pleasing lovers of white meat, which usually begins to dry out while the dark meat reaches doneness. There's no need to baste, or even fuss with turning the bird during roasting. And tests have shown that brined turkeys cook slightly faster, as the additional moisture helps transmit heat.

So why not give brining a try this Thanksgiving?

This Brined Roast Turkey with Pan Gravy recipe is fairly long; but it includes all the instructions you'll need -- even for making stock, which you'll then use to prepare gravy from the delicious pan drippings. But you'll find the process itself surprisingly simple -- and the results delightful.

Brined Roast Turkey With Pan Gravy

    Prep Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes

    Cook time: 3 Hours 30 Minutes

    Yield: Serves 8

Brined Roast Turkey With Pan Gravy Ingredients


    1 gallon water

    2 cups kosher salt

    1/2 cup cracked black peppercorns

    1 tablespoon ground cloves

    1 tablespoon ground ginger

    12 bay leaves

    3 cups honey

    3 cups maple syrup

    ROAST Turkey:

    10-pound whole fresh organic turkey, giblets and neck removed and reserved

    1 cup cubed organic carrots

    1 cup cubed organic celery

    1 cup cubed onion

    1 stick unsalted butter, softened

    2 teaspoons chopped garlic

    2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves

    1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

    2 organic apples, quartered and cored

    1 onion, peeled and quartered

    3 sprigs fresh sage

    2 sprigs fresh rosemary

    Olive oil, for drizzling


    1/2 cup dry white wine

    1/2 cup Madeira

    4 cups Turkey Stock (recipe follows), or store-bought chicken broth

    2 sprigs parsley

    1 sprig fresh thyme

    2 ounces softened unsalted butter kneaded together with 2 ounces all-purpose flour to make a beurre manié


    Freshly ground black pepper

Brined Roast Turkey With Pan Gravy Recipe Instructions

    For the brine, put the water, salt, peppercorns, cloves, ginger, and bay leaves in a stockpot large enough to hold the turkey. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir in the honey and maple syrup until dissolved. Turn off the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

    Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold running water. Carefully lower into the cooled brine. Place a clean weight on top of the turkey to keep it fully submerged. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.

    Before roasting, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the cubed carrots, celery, and onion in a shallow roasting pan.

    Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse briefly. Pat dry with paper towels. Loosen the skin from the breast area by gently inserting your fingers between the skin and flesh. In a mixing bowl, stir together the stick of butter, garlic, chopped sage, and chopped rosemary; rub this mixture under the breast skin. Insert the apples, onion, and herb sprigs into the turkey's cavity.

    Place the turkey breast-up in the roasting pan. Tuck the wings back and underneath the turkey. Using kitchen twine, tie the leg ends securely together. Drizzle and rub olive oil all over the skin.

    Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast not touching bone registers 165 degrees F., about 2-1/2 hours. (If the skin turns dark too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil.)

    Carefully transfer the turkey to a cutting board and cover with foil, leaving it to rest while you prepare the gravy.

    Tilt the roasting pan and skim off as much liquid fat as possible from the pan juices. Set the pan over two cooktop burners on medium heat. Add the wine and Madeira and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits. Continue boiling until only about 1/4 cup remains. Add the stock or broth, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then carefully pour through a fine-meshed strainer into a saucepan. Return to a boil, skimming any impurities from the surface, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Whisk in the beurre manie and continue simmering a few minutes longer until the gravy has thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Carve the turkey and serve, passing the gravy separately in a sauceboat.

Turkey Stock

    Prep Time: 30 minutes

    Cook time: 2 Hours 20 minutes

    Yield: Makes 4 to 6 cups

Turkey Stock Ingredients

    Turkey giblets and neck

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    1/2 cup Port

    1 cup chopped onion

    1/2 cup chopped organic carrot

    1/2 cup chopped organic celery

    2 sprigs fresh rosemary

    5 black peppercorns


Turkey Stock Recipe Instructions

    Heat a saucepan over high heat.

    Add the oil and, as soon as it swirls easily, add the giblets and neck and saute until evenly browned, about 7 minutes.

    Remove from the heat, add the Port, and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits.

    Return to the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the Port has almost completely evaporated, about 10 minutes.

    Add the onion, carrot, celery, rosemary, peppercorns, and enough cold water to cover by 4 inches.

    Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours, occasionally skimming off scum from the surface and adding a little more water to keep the solids covered.

    Pour the stock through a strainer into a mixing bowl. Use immediately; or cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 4 days.



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Brined Roast Turkey With Pan Gravy - How to Brine a Turkey for Thanksgiving

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