Roasted Brined Turkey with Pan Gravy
There are many differing opinions on how to roast a turkey so that it comes out moist, juicy and evenly cooked. We've tried a number of different brines, roasting methods, temperatures and times over the years and have come up with a few recipes that give us consistently good results. This is our most basic brined turkey recipe, tailored for fresh, minimally processed birds weighing 10 to 12 pounds (see our notes about larger turkeys). Serve with our Old-Fashioned Bread Stuffing as part of a classic turkey dinner.
Roasted Brined Turkey with Pan Gravy
- 10 to 12 pound minimally processed fresh turkey (see notes below)
- 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 leeks, cleaned green tops only, roughly chopped (reserve white parts for another use)
- 1 stalk celery including leafy top, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 to 6 cups chicken broth, divided
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- For the brine:
- 10 whole cloves
- 10 whole allspice berries
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 gallons water, divided
Remove the neck, giblets, etc., from the turkey cavities and place in a 1-1/2 quart saucepan. Add 2 cups of the chicken broth, cover and cook on low for about one hour. Remove and discard the solids, pour into a 4-cup measure, cover and refrigerate.
In another saucepan, combine the cloves, allspice, cinnamon and bay leaves with 2 quarts of water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the spices with a slotted spoon, then stir in the salt and sugar until completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in an additional quart of water (this speeds cooling).
Add the mixture to a food-safe 5-gallon plastic tub. Pour in an additional 5 quarts of ice water. It's important that the water be quite cold - you don't want to warm up your turkey! Rinse the turkey inside and out, then add it to the brine solution. Be sure the turkey is fully submerged and the cavity is filled with liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray a roasting pan and rack with nonstick spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the apple chunks, leeks, celery, garlic cloves, sage and thyme. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse thoroughly, inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the brining liquid. Place the turkey on a flat surface and stuff with the apple-leek mixture.
Tie the ends of the drumsticks together with kitchen twine. Using your hands, work about 1/2 tablespoon of the butter under the skin on each side of the breast, massaging afterward to distribute the butter as evenly as possible. Take the remaining butter and rub it into the outer skin on each of the drumsticks.
Place the turkey on the roasting rack breast side up. Form a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil into a v-shape to shield the entire turkey breast from drying out and browning prematurely. Spray very thoroughly with nonstick spray and form the foil around the breast.
Pour 2 cups of chicken broth into the roasting pan and place the turkey in the oven. Baste with the accumulating pan juices every 45 minutes and remove the foil from the breast for the last 45 minutes of cooking.
The amount of roasting time required can vary considerably (see notes below). When done, the internal temperature should be 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh. Figure on about 15 minutes per pound, plus 20 minutes resting time before carving - approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes total for a 12-pound bird.
To make pan gravy:
While the turkey is resting, skim any excess fat from the pan juices and add the juices to the reserved broth from the giblets and neck. Add enough extra chicken broth to equal 3 cups of liquid total. Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/3 cup water. Add to the simmering broth and continue whisking until thickened. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to a bowl or gravy boat for serving.
Buying fresh turkey:
If you are planning to use our brine recipe, it is very important that the turkey you buy has not already been injected with a salt solution. Read the label carefully, or ask your butcher! If you want to use a turkey larger than 12 pounds (up to a maximum of 14 lbs) increase the time in the brine by 2 hours.
The total roasting time needed for a whole turkey is an inexact science at best. It depends on the temperature of the turkey when it goes into the oven, how much heat is lost when opening the oven door for basting and the accuracy of the oven itself. Use both your good judgment and a reliable meat thermometer. Also, if you use a convection oven, plan to reduce the cooking time by about 25 percent.