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Awesome Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe……..and a chef’s little “secret”!

Posted: November 1, 2007
by: Robert Jackson

Have you ever ordered roast turkey when dining in a really good restaurant with a great chef? If you have, then you’ve probably wondered how they manage to keep the meat so tender and moist. Is it a secret ingredient, or perhaps some amazing piece of hugely expensive, professional cooking equipment? Actually, it’s neither, and I am going to share their little secret with you…..it’s all down to BRINING!

Brining is the very simple and inexpensive process of “marinating” the bird in a salt solution infused with aromatic herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. The salting process encourages very deep, cellular moisture penetration, which basically means less drying out during roasting…..resulting in a moister bird.


But before the recipe, let me explain a few basics:

1. Begin the process the day or night before as the turkey needs to soak for at least 10 hours.

2. You will need a container large enough to hold the turkey with enough brine to cover it.

3. If you are using a frozen turkey, it must be fully defrosted before the brining process begins. Do not use a self-basting or Kosher turkey as both already have salt added.

4. One way of telling if you have enough salt in your brine, is that a raw egg will float in it.

5. The turkey must be COMPLETELY submerged in the brine.

6. Ideally, the turkey should be kept refrigerated during the brining. If that isn't possible, keep the container (a cooler box is perfect for the job) somewhere cool such as in a basement. Ice packs or reusable gel packs may be used to maintain the temperature (but do not put ice directly into the brine as this will dilute the solution). The turkey and brine solution must be kept below 40° F /4° C.

7. You can vary the spices and seasonings according to your own preferences and availability. You can even substitute some of the water with cold tea, fruit or vegetable juices, stock, cider, wine or even light beer. The choice is yours! Just have fun….and experiment!

8. Remove the turkey from the brine about an hour before you plan to roast in order for it to reach room temperature.

Spiced and Super-Moist Roast Turkey

Serves 12

9-11lb/4-5kg turkey
about 10pints/6 litres cold water
about 4oz/125g salt (preferably Kosher)
7oz/200g light brown sugar
1 pint boiling water
3 tbsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, broken
1 tbsp caraway seeds
4 cloves
2 tbsp allspice berries
4 star anise
2 tbsp white mustard seeds
2 onions quartered
1 x 3in/6cm piece of ginger, cut into 6 slices
1 orange, quartered and squeezed to release the juice
4 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp clear honey
4 bay leaves torn into pieces
handful fresh herbs

For basting
4oz/125g butter
3tbsp maple syrup
freshly milled black pepper


1. Begin the day before by dissolving the salt and brown sugar in the boiling water. Allow to cool and then refrigerate overnight.

2. Add the brine solution, the water and all of the other brining ingredients to the container you are using. Mix well to dissolve the, sugar, honey & maple syrup.

3. Add the water and all of the other brining ingredients to the container you are using. Mix well.

4. Untie and remove any string or trussing that is attached to the turkey and then wash inside and out under cold water. Now sink the bird into the liquid adding more water if necessary to completely submerge it. Refrigerate or put into a cool place (see notes above) and leave it for at least 10 hours. Turn the turkey over at least once during this time.

5. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse inside and out under cold water. Dry thoroughly using kitchen towel. Allow to come up to room temperature (this helps to ensure proper and safe heat penetration).

6. Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/gas mark 7 (fan oven 200C).

7. Put the butter and maple syrup into a saucepan together and place over a low heat. Stir until the butter is completely melted and the two ingredients are combined.

8. Generously brush the maple butter glaze all over the turkey and season with freshly milled black pepper.

9. In a large roasting tin, place two long lengths of kitchen foil, one widthways and the other lengthways (forming a rather large "cross"). Place the turkey on top of the foil. Now fold the closest piece upwards and form a pleat where the ends meet above the breast. Then fold the other piece of foil upwards and crimp and fold to create a loose parcel that allows air to circulate around the breast.

10. Put the turkey into the oven and cook for 40 minutes before lowering the temperature to 350F/180C/gas mark 4 (fan oven 160C). Now continue to roast for about another 2 hours.

11. Remove the turkey from the oven and carefully peel back the foil to expose the breast. Baste with some of the juices from the pan. Turn the heat back up to 425F/220C/gas mark 7 (fan oven 200C) and roast for about another 20 minutes until the breast is golden brown.

12. Testing if the turkey is cooked: Turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F/74°C as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. At this temperature, the turkey will be cooked perfectly and safely yet remain beautifully moist.

If you do not have a meat thermometer, you can test for doneness by piercing the thickest part of the leg with a skewer or sharp knife. If the juices run perfectly clear, it's cooked. If the juices show any sign of pinkness, return to the oven for another 15 minutes and test again.

Once fully cooked, very carefully lift the turkey from the pan and place on a cutting board. Leave to rest for at least 30 minutes loosely covered with foil.


Robert Jackson

Gourmet Food Revolution

Your Comments

This recipe sounds sooooo good, im definantly trying this for Thanksgiving. Ill repost again, and let you know how it turned out!!
Thanks for posting this recipe. :)

Posted by: jill at Nov 10, 2008 7:07:34 PM