Thanksgiving turkey

Since we are coming up on Thanksgiving in the next couple of weeks, I wanted to re-post our turkey recipe. The key to this recipe is to brine the turkey the night before. A brine is a very salty solution that you soak the bird in for several hours, depending on the size. The salt soaks into the meat leaving it the juiciest turkey you’ve ever tasted. It’s a little time consuming but it makes all the difference. You will never eat dry turkey ever again. The question I always get asked is if it’s makes the bird too salty. The answer is no, it mainly keeps the moisture in while giving it a slightly salty taste. I promise you wont feel like your eating a brick of salt. They make brining bags that are great for smaller turkeys or chickens but normally for a bigger bird we use a water cooler or an ice chest that is designated just for poultry. It is a little more clean up, but I always have a hard time keeping the bags sealed with that big of bird in it; and this way you can put the turkey in the brine, set it in the garage and get it out the next day ready to cook.

I always like to remind everyone also to please be careful when working with raw poultry. Wash your hands, the sink and the counter top very frequently during the process so you don’t give all of your guests Salmonella. Not a good take home gift.

When you actually cook the turkey it’s pretty easy. We use to make our own secret rubs and sauces until we were in Georga once and Jace’s brother just rubbed a bunch of Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning on their turkey. It was so good we threw out all of our recipes and went and bought a bottle of the stuff.

Another thing to note is that a brined turkey will cook a lot faster than a not brined turkey. Something about the salt and increased mass and something else. We’ve had them fully cooked an hour faster than we thought it would be ready, but they’ll also stay warmer a lot longer, too.

Thanksgiving turkey
brining bags, water cooler or small ice chest
large stock pot to make the brine
roasting pan

thawed turkey
2 quarts apple juice
1 lb brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
3 oranges (quartered)
6 bay leaves
1 tsp ground clove
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 gallons water (anything but Midland water…yuck)
ice (one bag should do it)
Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning
5-6 stalks of celery
4 large carrots
5 cloves garlic
1 large onion

Put all ingredients (except the water, celery, carrots, garlic and onion) into the stock pot and heat until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Let the solution cool so you don’t cook your bird. I make mine the day before we start brining and put it in the refrigerator.
The day before you cook your turkey, when you are ready to brine, unpackage the thawed bird and take out all of the grossness inside the cavities. Put the bird into either a brining bag or cooler and pour the brine over the bird. Fruit and all. Top it off with water until it covers the bird totally. If you are using a brining bag place it in the refrigerator, if you use a cooler pour in the ice to keep it cold. We store ours in the garage because it will keep it cooler than in the house. Let it sit overnight.

The next day, when you are ready to cook, get out the celery, carrots, garlic and onion. Chop the celery, carrots and onion into big chunks and peel the garlic. Place all veggies into the bottom of the roasting pan. Get the bird out and pat it dry with paper towels. It’s a messy job so don’t be wearing your Sunday best. Cover the bird in the Chachere’s seasoning (don’t be shy with it) and place the bird on top of the veggies in the roasting pan. Shove the oranges from the brine into the cavity. Cook until the bird reaches 160 degrees in the breast, mine normally take 2-4 hours so leave yourself plenty of time. We use a 350°F oven and it’s almost always perfectly crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, but sometimes it can get too crisp on the outside. If that looks like it may happen, just pull it out and cover the breasts with foil. Remove from the oven and let it rest for about 30 minutes before you carve and enjoy. The rest will help the juices mellow so that you won’t spray them everywhere with your first cut. Also, the turkey is hot and will take at least that long to get to where you can keep your hands on it long enough to carve.

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