It's the key to a moist, tender turkey.

This year has been challenging and unique, but your upcoming holiday feast can include the comforts of familiarity. If a turkey is on your menu this Thanksgiving, this savory roast will tickle the taste buds of everyone at your family gathering. 

It takes a bit of planning, but those hoping to add a little twist to their table centerpiece may want to secure a heritage turkey. Sometimes found under the names 'Narragansett' or 'Bourbon Red,' these turkeys are firmer in texture than a regular supermarket bird. Often raised free-range with a diverse diet and extended lifespan, heritage turkeys grow slowly and develop deeper flavor than conventional birds. Usually smaller than the hybrid breeds readily available at the local grocery store, heritage turkeys take anywhere from 24-30 weeks to reach market weight, compared to about 18 weeks for a conventional turkey. Smaller heritage turkeys are a great fit for this year's smaller gatherings and perfect size for one of our favorite roasting pans, Made In's new Blue Carbon Steel Roasting Pan, which holds a twelve-pound bird. The angled stainless steel handles are ideal for tenting with aluminum foil – a crucial step in turkey roasting. 

The key to a moist, tender heritage turkey is an acidic brine, ideally overnight or for a full day before roasting. But if you're not using a heritage turkey this year, this recipe also works very well for a regular turkey! Brining poultry adds terrific depth and flavor to blander meat. For heritage turkeys specifically, the brine will help soften the flesh, resulting in a succulent, crisp turkey for your holiday table. 

  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 10 to 16Servings

Ingredients

Brine

  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 2 lemons, halved and squeezed (zest optional)
  • 5 to 7 fresh bay leaves

Roast

  • 1 14-to 20-pound turkey, preferably heritage
  • 2 medium yellow onions, quartered and peeled
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • 8 tablespoons/1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Preparation

  1. Begin the brining process. At a minimum, brine overnight or, ideally, 24-hours before roasting. First, remove giblets and neck from turkey. Next, place the turkey in a brining vessel large enough to submerge the bird and small enough to fit your refrigerator. (If you don't have such a vessel, you can also place your turkey in two or three clean, unscented plastic garbage bags nested inside one another. Secure and place in a cooler with ice.) Mix the apple cider vinegar, 3 quarts of water, salt, lemons, bay leaves, and pour the liquid over turkey evenly.
  2. An hour before you're ready to roast your turkey, remove the butter from the refrigerator to soften, and preheat the oven to 350F and prepare the herbed butter. Combine the thyme and softened butter, reserving some thyme for the stuffing. Set aside.
  3. Quarter two onions and peel the garlic cloves. Set one quartered onion aside with the garlic cloves to stuff the turkey. Arrange the other onion in the roasting pan, evenly distributing rosemary sprigs on top of the onions. Reserve some rosemary for the stuffing. Set aside.
  4. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator or cooler. Dispose of the brine in the sink, and rinse the turkey thoroughly under cool water. Pat dry with paper towels and place directly on top of onions and rosemary in the roasting pan. Season the turkey cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff with onion, garlic, and remaining herbs.
  5. Slather the bird generously with the herb butter, both on and under the skin, particularly on the breast. Sprinkle a liberal amount of salt and pepper all over the buttered turkey. 
  6. Add turkey neck and giblets to the bottom of the roasting pan. The turkey drippings, onions, herbs, neck, and giblets, once roasted, will make an easy onion gravy as a side dish.
  7. Take two pieces of aluminum foil, cut to the length of the roasting pan. Fold each piece along the roasting pan's side to tent the bird. Transfer turkey to oven to roast 3 hours for a 14-pound turkey. Add 13 minutes/pound for larger turkeys.
  8. Thirty minutes before roasting time is complete, insert a digital probe thermometer into the thigh. If the thigh registers at 160F, the turkey is ready to come out of the oven. Remove bird from the oven and transfer to your desired serving platter.

Related on Organic Authority
Heritage Turkey: Thanksgiving Dinner Throwback
Where (And Why) to Buy Your Heritage Turkey
6 Lessons I Learned Raising Narragansett Heritage Turkeys

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