Traditional recipes

Alton Brown's Classic Brined and Roasted Turkey

Alton Brown's Classic Brined and Roasted Turkey

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This roasted turkey recipe stays moist, thanks to a genius, simple brine. A large cooler is necessary for the brining, but you'll also use it to thaw your turkey if it's frozen.



  • Fresh herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, and sage)
  • 2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray


  • 8 lb. ice (which is a gallon of water)
  • 16 cups (128 oz.) vegetable broth


  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Recipe Preparation

Thawing the Turkey

  • Place wrapped turkey in a 5-gallon cooler with a drain spout. Place cooler in a bathtub and cover turkey with cold water. Drain and replace water every 2–3 hours, keeping water temperature below 40°, until turkey has thawed, 8–10 hours.

Brining the Turkey

  • Clean cooler with soap and water, then pour in hot tap water, salt, and sugar. Stir thoroughly to dissolve salt and sugar. Then stir in ice and vegetable broth.

  • Unwrap thawed turkey and remove any parts (such as neck, organs, etc.) that may be inside cavity. These may be saved for gravy.

  • Place turkey in brine breast side up. If turkey floats, fill a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag with water and place it on top of turkey. Set cooler, lid closed, in a cool place, turning turkey over once if possible, 8–12 hours. Check brining liquid periodically with probe thermometer; if temperature is above 40°, add a few freezer packs that have been enclosed in resealable plastic bags.

  • Remove turkey from brine, rinse under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Do not stuff turkey.

Roasting the Turkey

  • Remove all oven racks except for one. Set this rack in the next-to-the-lowest position. Preheat oven to 500°.

  • Loosely pack turkey with a combination of herbs, carrots, celery, and onion. Keep packing loose.

  • Place turkey, breast side up, on a V-shaped rack set inside a large roasting pan. Cut a piece of foil big enough to cover the turkey's breast. Mold piece to breast. Remove foil, then grease with spray.

  • Rub butter between your hands until liberally greased (you may use disposable gloves if desired). Rub butter into turkey. You may need to re-butter your hands a couple times in order to get a nice, even coating.

  • Place turkey in oven, neck end first and breast up. Roast turkey until nicely browned, 30–40 minutes. Apply foil to breast of turkey. Insert thermometer probe directly through foil into deepest part of breast.

  • Reduce oven temperature to 350° and return turkey to oven, foil securely in place. Do not open oven to baste turkey. Roast until probe registers 161° for breast and 181° for thigh, 2–2½ hours.

  • Cover turkey with foil and let rest 30 minutes. Save pan drippings for gravy.

Gravy (Optional)

  • Mix pan drippings with water, chicken broth, and cornstarch. Heat in a small saucepan over medium until thickened.

Reviews Sectionis it ok to brine for 24 hours with this recipe?This was my first time brining and it turned out moist and delicious. The skin was crispy and it was very easy to make. I really wish that there was better instructions for the gravy it is something I am not very good at making.How much fresh herbs do you recommend using?I confess: I bought a brined turkey from HEB (Texas grocery store chain). As for the rest, I followed directions and it was a great success. I'd include the aluminum shielding over the drumsticks, too, not just the breast, next time. Maybe half the chopped vegetable/herb packing wouldn't fit, wound up in the pan, and along with the packing inside the turkey were the basis of the most exquisite gravy I've ever made. Put everything in and under the completed turkey into a pan, added about a box of chicken stock, simmered 20-30 min to soften everything more, and completed by using an immersion blender (regular blender would've been better but too much mess and I was out of time). The gravy of the gods.CactusUSNThe Republic of Texas11/26/17

Watch the video: Gordon Ramsay - Christmas Turkey with Gravy (June 2022).


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