Over the last several days, in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday, I have done a trial run of brining and roasting a turkey.  In the first post, Holiday Turkey Brine, I provided a recipe for a brine that makes enough for a twenty pound turkey.  The second installment was Holiday Turkey Brine: Part Two – Brining the TurkeyToday I want to show exactly how I prepared and roasted this brined turkey.

My bird was on the smaller side – a mere 13-14 pounds. Here’s a general guide for how much you will need:

12-15 lb turkey for 10-12 people
15-18 lb turkey for 14-16 people
18-22 lb turkey for 20-22 people

In a perfect world we would all have an organic heritage turkey that we hand fed and raised in our backyards and slaughtered ourselves. Just joking there. But seriously, it is nice to have a fresh turkey that has not been injected with lots of antibiotics and gluten-containing saline solutions. When I purchased what I thought was a “fresh” turkey I did not understand the meaning of “Kosher”. Turns out it means, among other things, the poultry has been soaked in unsalted water for half an hour and then packed in salt for about an hour. This means it has been partially brined. I ended up letting this kosher bird brine for about 18 hours but it probably could have gone for less time and been fine. That’s one of the nice things about brining, it is not an exact science. Clearly you don’t want TOO much salt on the meat for TOO long but a little more or less of each will not result in a disaster.  When I was researching how to prep and roast this sucker I looked at several cookbooks and websites. There was one recipe on a Martha Stewart site that did not advocate rinsing the turkey after brining. But I noticed in the post comments several people complained that it was way too salty.  So I opted to rinse my turkey really, really well.  The salt has already been absorbed into the meat anyway so washing off the surface will just keep the final taste from being too strong. You will not be washing off the flavor the way you would if you had just dry seasoned the outside of the bird. And because my brine recipe had lots of spices – some of which were rather large – those had to be removed before roasting.  Here’s what the brining turkey looked like with all the spices.brining turkeyThis turkey was brined in bags inside my large roasting pan mainly because I was paranoid about leaks.  It actually made it easier to tote the thing from the extra refrigerator in my garage back to the kitchen.  (I got a little bit of a workout with this process!) The turkey went straight into my clean sink for rinsing. It took some time to remove all the pieces of spices. I thoroughly rinsed inside and out and even made sure to clean under his widdle wing! Is that called a “wingpit”?

Because this particular turkey had been minimally processed it still had a few feathers on it.  So I used my husband’s needle-nosed pliers to remove the feathers.  I might as well be back on the farm, folks! Well, maybe not.  But it is certainly closer than I was when I was eating more prepackaged food.

After removing the few remaining feathers and rinsing the turkey very thoroughly I dried it off with several paper towels and placed it back in the roasting pan. You can let it hang out for a while before cooking because the turkey should be close to room temperature when it goes in the oven in order to cook more evenly. Because the brining solution infused the turkey with lots of delicious flavors it did not require more spices. The only two additions were butter, white wine and one orange.  I used one stick (8 tablespoons) Kerrygold pastured butter and rubbed half of it under the skin as shown in this photo.

The remaining butter, once softened a bit, was smeared all over the outside. I also stuffed the turkey with a quartered orange and tied up the legs with twine. (This makes for a nice presentation but is not entirely necessary.) I poured one cup of white wine into the bottom of the pan and cooked the turkey at 450° F for 30 minutes. The higher temperature served to quickly crisp and begin to brown the skin. At the thirty minute mark I basted the turkey with the melted butter and wine in the bottom of the pan. I tented the turkey with some aluminum foil, reduced the heat to 350° F and continued to cook for 2 more hours – basting every thirty minutes. The rule of thumb is 10 minutes per pound after the first thirty minutes on the higher heat. So I roasted my 13 pounder for a total of about 2 hours and 40 minutes. The aluminum foil was removed for the last hour to make sure that it browned well.

One hour before you expect the turkey to be done is also when you should start taking temperature readings. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast and thigh. Because the temperature will continue to rise once you take the turkey out of the oven, consider it “done” when the temperature of the breast reaches 160° F or the thighs/legs reach 170° F. I used my electronic probe thermometer that attaches to the oven and has an alarm that goes off when the proper temperature is reached.  If you do not have a meat thermometer or electronic probe simply spear the breast with a knife and make sure the juices are clear and not still pink.

Here’s the final product.

Here’s another photo on a different tablecloth. I am only showing it because G and I were arguing over which was the better photo.  He picked the one with the brightly colored tablecloth. Was this really worth arguing over? I think not.

On second thought I AM becoming more and more interested in food photography. So this might be a reasonable dilemma for a food blog.  My biggest regret about this particular turkey is that I finished roasting it in the evening once the sun had gone down. Photographing food in natural light is my preferred method but it was not possible this time. Even the perfect photo cannot show whether or not the turkey was delicious. But I can tell you this one was. The saltiness was perfect – not overpowering. And I definitely could taste the subtle influences of the spices from the brine. There truly was no need to add any additional spices mixed in with the butter or otherwise.

Here’s a summary:

What you will need

  • 12-20 pound brined turkey
  • 1 stick pastured, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • one fresh orange, quartered
  • kitchen twine
  • roasting pan

What you do

  1. Thoroughly rinse the brined turkey.
  2. Dry the turkey with paper towels and place in a roasting pan.
  3. Place one quartered orange into the cavity.
  4. Tie the legs with twine (optional)
  5. Rub 1/2 stick of pastured butter under the skin of the breast and legs.
  6. Rub another 1/2 stick pastured butter on the outside of the turkey and allow to come to room temperature.
  7. Pour one cup of white wine in the bottom of the roasting pan.
  8. Place turkey into a preheated 450° F oven and cook for 30 minutes.
  9. Baste turkey.
  10. Reduce heat to 350° F
  11. Place aluminum foil tent over turkey.
  12. Cook for approximately 10- 15 minutes per pound, basting every 30 minutes
  13. Remove foil tent during last hour and begin checking temperature.
  14. Remove turkey from the oven once the breast temperature reaches 160° and/or the thighs/legs reach 170° degrees.
  15. Allow to rest for up to one hour before carving and serving.
  16. Reserve drippings for gravy.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Do not forget the One responsible for all our blessings.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:17

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