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Thanksgiving is a tradition that is always held at my mother’s house. Since I was a little girl, I’ve been watching her make the family turkey for 20-something guests. Here is a recipe for a brine turkey. A brine simply referres to a recipe for allowing the turkey to soak in a salt/water mixture for several hours in the refrigorator. The mixture is then washed off and patted dry before cooking. I’ve also included a non brine turkey (read below). Why brine the turkey? This makes the juiciest turkey with skin that will brown and crisp. The brine process makes the turkey superbly moist and flavorful. The meat comes out succulent. The meat is not salty, so don’t be afraid to use the amount of salt directed in the recipe since it is rinsed off afterwards. If you do not want to brine a turkey, simply seperate the skin from the turkey just enough to rub a few tablespoons of butter under the skin (If not brining, use salted butter).
A few notes and tips I’ve learned over the years.
Make sure the turkey you buy from the store is not a Butterball turkey that is already brined since this recipe includes brining it. Brining a turkey twice will make it too salty. Look on the turkey label to see if it is brined or not.
If flipping the bird use 2 pot holders and put them in freezer zip-lock bags. Put your hands in the bags, grab the bird and flip!
A no brine turkey
The skin can be seperated and butter can be rubbed underneath the skin (a few tablespoons of salted butter). This adds to an extremely juicy chicken. Also, if you do not want to brine a turkey, this is the next best step; this is what I used to do. This recipe is as good as a brined turkey as far a juicy goes.
Stuffing may get too soggy inside turkey. Instead, I always make stuffing in a different pan. Be sure to pat the turkey dry with paper towel after rinsing the brine mixture.
Also, boil the stuffed vegetables before stuffing it in the turkey. Vegetables may/can be substituted with chopped apples while the vegetables can be made on the side. Wine can be substituted with chicken broth.
If you use any butter for a brined turkey, be sure it is unsalted butter. Unsalted butter should always be used for a brined turkey. If you use salted butter and brine the turkey, it will come out salty.
Allow the turkey to rest after cooking in the oven. Bring to the counter and allow to sit. In the meantime, make gravy and rolls while the turkey is resting. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed.
Turkey should reach an internal temperature of 185 degrees F to be considered safe for consumption.
A few additional notes and tips I’ve learned over the years.
If you don’t have any room in the refrigerator, place brine mixture in an oven bag/zip-lock bag with the turkey, squeeze out the air and tie the bag. Place the bagged turkey in a cooler with plenty of ice (3 bags or so) to sit over night for the duration.
For more cooking time/lbs of turkey see the below links for calculators. Also, see the links below for planning a thanksgiving turkey dinner based on how many guests will be present.
*Cook turkey according to directions, usually located on label.
thawing, cooking time and serving/pounds
12-15 lb turkey for 10-12 people
15-18 lb turkey for 14-16 people
18-22 lb turkey for 20-22 people
*Look for more Thanksgiving recipes coming soon to Swanky Recipes*
Take a seat and join our table conversation. What are you thankful for?
- 1 (18 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter , melted
- 2 cups kosher salt *This is for brine , see below
- 2 large yellow onions , peeled and chopped
- 5-6 carrots , peeled and chopped
- 5-6 stalks celery , chopped
- 1-2 granny smith apples , peeled and halved - optional
- 1 cup dry white wine (chicken broth will work too)
- 2 springs fresh thyme
- fresh sage
- 1 bay leaf
- peppercorn to taste - optional
- rosemary - optional
- 1. Rub the turkey inside and out with the kosher salt. Place the bird in a large stock pot, and cover with cold water. Place in the refrigerator, and allow the turkey to soak in the salt and water mixture 12 hours, or overnight. If you have not room in refrigerator, use a cooler. Place brine mixture and turkey in a zip-lock bag. Squeeze air out and tie. Place a few bags of ice in cooler to keep turkey cold.
- 2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Thoroughly rinse the turkey good, and discard the brine mixture.
- Brush the turkey with 1/2 the melted butter. Place breast side down on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan.
- 3. Boil vegetables before stuffing them in the turkey. This will ensure the vegetables are done.
- 4. Stuff the turkey cavity with 1 onion, 1/2 the carrots, 1/2 the celery, 1 sprig of thyme, and the bay leaf (rosemary and sage optional). Scatter the remaining vegetables and thyme around the bottom of the roasting pan, and cover with the white wine. Apples can also be placed inside and around.
- 5. Roast uncovered 3 1/2 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 180 degrees F (85 degrees C). Carefully turn the turkey breast side up about 2/3 through the roasting time, and brush with the remaining butter. Foil should not have to be used when flipping a bird, but it can be if wanted.
- *Allow the bird to stand about 30 minutes before carving.
2. When flipping a turkey, place 2 potholders in zip-lock bags. This will ensure the potholders will not get wet.
3. When brining a turkey, always use UNSALTED butter. Salted butter will make the turkey too salty in addition to brining.
4. If you don't have any room in the refrigerator, place brine mixture in an oven bag/zip-lock bag with the turkey, squeeze out the air and tie the bag. Place the bagged turkey in a cooler with plenty of ice (3 bags or so) to sit over night for the duration.
5. For more helpful tips and notes on Thanksgiving and turkey visit