If you want the tenderest turkey out there, a brine is your secret ingredient. With a bit of planning, this savory roast will tickle the taste buds of everyone at your family gathering.
First thing's first: 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.
Heritage turkeys are usually smaller than the hybrid breeds readily available at the local grocery store, taking anywhere from 24 to 30 weeks to reach market weight, as compared to about 18 weeks for a conventional turkey. Smaller heritage turkeys are a great fit for smaller gatherings and the perfect size for one of our favorite roasting pans, Made In's 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. Brining poultry adds terrific depth and flavor to blander meat. Ideally, you'd brine your turkey overnight or for a full day before roasting. For heritage turkeys specifically, the brine will help soften the flesh, resulting in a succulent, crisp turkey for your holiday table. And if you're not using a heritage turkey this year, this recipe also works very well for a regular turkey!
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 10 to 16Servings
- 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
- 1 14-to 20-pound turkey, preferably heritage
- 2 medium yellow onions, quartered and peeled
- 6 to 8 garlic cloves
- 8 tablespoons/1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- A day before roasting, remove the giblets and neck from turkey; reserve. 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, and bay leaves, and pour the liquid over turkey evenly.
- An hour before you're ready to roast your turkey, remove the butter from the refrigerator to soften, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the herbed butter by combining the thyme and softened butter, reserving some thyme for the stuffing. Set aside.
- Quarter two onions and peel the garlic cloves. Set one quartered onion aside with the garlic cloves; these will be used 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.
- 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 the onions and rosemary in the roasting pan. Season the turkey cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff with the onion, garlic, and remaining herbs.
- Slather the bird generously with the herb butter, both on and under the skin, particularly on the breast. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
- Add the 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.
- 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 the turkey to the oven; roast 3 hours for a 14-pound turkey. (Add 13 minutes per pound for larger turkeys.)
- Thirty minutes before the roasting time is complete, insert a digital probe thermometer into the thigh. Once the thigh registers at 160 degrees Fahrenheit, the turkey is ready to come out of the oven and transfer to your desired serving platter.