Turkey is one of those meats that you reserve for special occasions. It takes a lot of prep work (including making the stuffings) and quite a bit of clean up afterwards (it is a messy bird to carve, regardless of what you see in videos online). It is, however, a really delicious meat to treat yourself to for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
1-15 lb turkey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
3 cups stuffing of choice
2 carrots, sliced in half
3 celery sticks
1 onion, sliced into 1/4” rounds
4 cups chicken stock*
Ingredients – Brine
16 cups water
1 1/2 cups Kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
4 garlic cloves
6 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs sage
4 cups cold water
To prepare the brine, combine all ingredients except for the cold water in pot big enough to hold and fully submerge the turkey. Bring the mixture to a boil, ensuring that the sugar and salt is completely melted. Add the four cups cold water and allow it to cool to room temperature (you can speed up the process with ice cubes instead of water). You want the brine and the turkey to be the same temperature between 35°F and 40°F before you submerge the turkey. Brine the turkey for at least 8 hours and up to 18 hours. Do not brine for longer than 18 hours as it may lead to a spongy texture.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse. Place on a paper towel and pat dry the entire turkey, including the cavity. Rub the entire bird with the softened butter, including the inside of the cavity. Season with salt and pepper. Fill the cavity with the stuffing and use the plastic leg hooks to seal close. Add additional stuffing in the front neck end and sew closed with thread or use a skewer to keep in position. Note: There must be enough space between the stuffing and breastbone to fit the handle of a wooden spoon.
Clean the carrots, celery sticks, and onions. Place on the bottom of the roasting pan and place the rack on top. Place the turkey, breast side down, onto the rack. Add the chicken stock. (*Note: you may need additional stock – check the turkey periodically to ensure that the stock has not fully evaporated.) Cover the top with silver foil for the first hour and then remove the foil. Bake the turkey to 180°F (the juices should run clear). To test, insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the inner thigh (but not touching the bone). The cooking time is approximately 3 hours.
Once cooked, allow the turkey to rest in the pan for 1/2 hour. Remove the turkey from the roasting pan and place on a cutting board. lined with parchment paper or a towel underneath. You will need quite a bit of room to carve the turkey. The juices in the pan can be used to make a gravy (use a dripping separator to remove any oils). Test for salt and thicken with 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 cup water.
To serve the turkey, begin by removing the stuffing from both cavities. Cut along the back to expose the wishbone. The wishbone can be removed by tugging. This step is not necessary, but it makes it easier to carve the turkey. Remove the legs on both sides and cut in half at the joint. Remove the bone in the center of the thigh and cut the thigh meat into smaller pieces. Remove the wings and set aside. Slice the breast in multiple strokes to remove (do not saw it back and forth). Slice the breast meat against the grain into smaller pieces.
Serve immediately. Serves 10 to 12 people.
Note: When selecting the size of a turkey, a quick rule of thumb is one pound of meat for every adult (1½ if you want leftovers). For this recipe, I have used a 15 pound turkey. For a smaller turkey, the brine and stuffing needed will be lower. Ensure to remove any gizzards and liver before brining.