Brining and Cooking Your Turkey
To brine or not to brine, that is the question
Here you will find multiple ways to add flavor to your bird, plus a handy timing chart so you can be sure that your turkey will be perfectly cooked.
To Brine is Divine
Earn lots of wows for just a little work. Brining — soaking the turkey in a saltwater solution for 4 to 24 hours before roasting — results in a tender juicy bird.
Plan on 1 gallon of water for a 12-14 pound turkey. Use 2 gallons for larger turkeys. Remember, a big turkey in a big pot of water can get heavy and take up a lot of refrigerator space, so think about the logistics before brining a bird that's 20 pounds or more.
Check out our simple and adaptable basic brine recipe.
We also love dry brining, which achieves a juicy, flavorful bird without the water part.
thawed turkey 12-14 pounds
6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
Whole cloves, cumin seeds and/or peppercorns
Ground chile powder, smoked paprika and/or nutmeg
Fresh rosemary, bay leaves and/or thyme
Crushed garlic cloves and/or citrus peels
Toast whole spices in a dry skillet, crush coarsely and mix with ground spices.
Combine spices with salt and sugar — sugar will help with browning.
Rub turkey generously with spice mixture, inside and out.
Refrigerate uncovered for about 24 hours — at least 1 hour per pound.
Rinse inside and out and pat dry before cooking as desired.
If you prefer to brine overnight, reduce the salt by about half or your finished bird may be too salty.
Brining will produce salty pan juices. If making gravy with them, be sure to use low-sodium broth.
Containers must be cleaned and sanitized both before and after brining.
Don't stuff a brined bird; the stuffing will be too salty.
Other Ways to Add Flavor
A generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and a brush of butter are delicious but sometimes a celebration calls for something more. Here are three easy ways to boost flavor:
Inject flavor. Blast flavorful liquids (broth, butter, olive oil, etc.) directly into the meat with a poultry injector — it looks like a really big syringe and is sold at most kitchenware stores. This technique has many of the advantages of brining, plus it works almost instantly and is less cumbersome for really big birds.
Use fresh herbs. Put herbs to work in one (or more) of these three ways:
Loosen the skin over the breast meat and thigh of the turkey with your fingers and stuff chopped herbs under the skin
Place whole herb sprigs in the cavity
Sprinkle chopped herbs over the exterior of the turkey
Try a spice rub. Combine dried herbs and seasonings of choice and sprinkle them in the cavity and over the skin of the bird. Loosen the skin over the breast and thighs of the bird and work a little under there as well.
Time to Roast!
|Turkey Size||Approximate Roasting Time|
|8-12 pounds||2-3.5 hours|
|13-16 pounds||3-4 hours|
|16-20 pounds||4-5 hours|
|20-25 pounds||5-6 hours|
|25-30 pounds||6+ hours|
Estimated turkey roasting times are based on a 350° oven, but cooking times can vary depending on a number of factors, including oven temperature and accuracy, the type of roasting pan used and how frequently you open the oven door. The type of bird you choose can also make a difference in the cooking time. If you are cooking a stuffed turkey, add an additional 5-7 minutes per pound.
Begin to check for doneness about 30 minutes before the first suggested roasting time. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (don't hit the bone). When it reads 165°F, take the turkey out of the oven. Check that the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh.
Stuffing: Yea or Nay?
Your turkey will roast more evenly and quickly without the stuffing inside. Here are some tips for the best results:
Always stuff loosely; estimate 1/2 to 3/4 cups stuffing per pound of turkey. Bake extra stuffing in a casserole dish.
Stuffing your bird increases the cooking time by about 5-7 minutes per pound.
Check the temperature of the stuffing and not just the bird before serving. The stuffing must register at least 165°F before serving.
Never stuff the bird ahead of time. Stuff with freshly prepared stuffing just before roasting.