Golden, delicious and moist, this perfect roast turkey, inspired by Martha Stewart, will certainly turn heads this Thanksgiving. By using Martha Stewart’s foolproof method for brining and roasting, your T-day turkey will be the showpiece it’s supposed to be.
Nothing is as disappointing on Thanksgiving as a dry bird. We all remember that scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold starts to carve their turkey only to find that it was eviscerated completely. Yes, the scene was extreme, but no one likes dry turkey.
Eliminate the dry turkey this Thanksgiving by using this recipe from Martha Stewart. This brined turkey recipe is nearly foolproof. And yes, we acknowledge that brining a turkey takes (extra) time, but it is so worth the effort.
Brining is the process of soaking meat in a salt-water solution. The salty bath locks moisture into the meat. This method yields tender and tasty turkey, with a crispy golden skin.
After 24 hours, bring the turkey out of the refrigerator, rinse off the salt water, and dry with paper towels. Then allow the bird to rest at room temperature for two hours. With about 30 minutes to go of rest time, preheat the oven to 425F and move the rack to the lowest setting.
If you plan on making gravy, add giblets and the neck to the roasting pan 1-1/2 hours after reducing the temperature. Roast for 30 minutes then remove and set aside. After three hours total roasting time, remove turkey and discard cheesecloth.
Your turkey definitely will be the showstopper for Thanksgiving this year when you follow with Martha Stewart’s brined turkey recipe.
Start with brining the turkey. In an extra-large soup pot, combine the salt, sugar, the chopped onions, leeks, carrots, celery, dried bay leaves, thyme, parsley, pepper, and 10 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then set aside to cool completely. Once the broth is cool, place the turkey inside, breast side down. Cover with foil and refrigerate. Brine the turkey for 24 hours, at least — but not much longer. After 24 hours, the salty brine starts to break down the tissue.
Melt the butter in a small pot and add the dry white wine. Next, fold an extra large cheesecloth into quarters and soak in the butter/wine mixture for 5-10 minutes.
Get ready to roast
Place the turkey, breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Fold the wing tips under the turkey. Sprinkle one teaspoon of salt and pepper inside the turkey cavity and tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Then tuck the neck flap under; securing it with toothpicks if it doesn’t stay tucked.
Next rub the softened butter all over the skin, like you’re giving it a Swedish massage. Season with additional salt and pepper.
Lay Cheesecloth Over Turkey
Now remove the cheesecloth from the butter/wine mixture, squeezing any excess gently back into the pot. Reserve the remaining mixture for use in basting the turkey. Lay cheesecloth over turkey.
Place the turkey in the oven with the legs towards the back, if possible. Roast 30 minutes. With the reserved butter/wine mixture, brush the cheesecloth and exposed turkey. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F. Continue to roast, brushing every 30 minutes for 2 1/2 hours more. Cover with foil if the turkey begins to brown too quickly.
After three hours total cooking time, remove turkey and discard cheesecloth. Rotate pan 180 degrees. Baste turkey with pan juices. Then continue roasting while rotating pan after 30 minutes, until skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180F, about one hour.
Transfer to a Platter
Allow turkey to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. While the turkey rests, make your gravy with the roasted neck and giblets and the drippings from the roasting pan. Once everything is ready, carve your bird and serve.
2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2 dried bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
Freshly ground pepper
1 fresh whole turkey (18 - 20 pounds), rinsed and patted dry, giblets and neck reserved for gravy
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), melted, plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
Small fruits, apples, fresh rosemary sprigs, and fresh sage, for garnish
Place salt, sugar, onions, leeks, carrots, celery, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, peppercorns and 10 cups water in a large stockpot. Stir mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Set brine aside until it is cooled completely.
Add turkey, breast side down, into the brine. Cover with foil. Place in refrigerator for 24 hours.
When ready to roast, remove turkey from brine and place on a large cutting board lined with paper towels. Pat dry completely with paper towels. Allow turkey to stand uncovered at room temperature for two hours.
Preheat oven to 425F. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position of the oven.
In a medium bowl, combine melted butter and wine, mixing well. Fold a very large piece of cheesecloth into quarters so that it is large enough to cover the turkey breast and halfway down the sides. Immerse cloth in butter-wine mixture. Allow cloth to soak for 5-10 minutes.
Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack set in a roasting pan. Fold wing tips under turkey. Sprinkle one teaspoon each salt and pepper inside turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Fold neck flap under; securing it with toothpicks if needed.
Rub turkey all over with softened butter; season with additional salt and pepper.
Remove cheesecloth from butter mixture, gently squeezing any excess into the bowl. Reserve butter mixture for use in brushing on turkey.
Lay cheesecloth over turkey.
Place turkey, legs towards back if possible, in oven. Roast 30 minutes.
Brush cheesecloth and exposed turkey with butter mixture. Reduce temperature to 350F. Roast, brushing every 30 minutes for 2 1/2 hours more. You can cover the turkey with foil if browning too quickly.
After three hours total cooking time, remove turkey and discard cheesecloth. Rotate pan 180 degrees. Baste turkey with pan juices. Roast, rotating pan halfway through, until skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180F, about one hour.
Transfer to a platter. Allow turkey to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Set pan with drippings aside for gravy.
Carve and serve.
Note: If making gravy, add giblets and neck to pan 1 1/2 hours after reducing temperature; roast for 30 minutes then remove, and set aside.
Note: The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking the turkey until the thickest part of the thigh registers 180F. For a moister bird, remove at 165F; it will continue to cook outside the oven as it rests.