Turkey Brine and Bake Recipe

Thanksgiving!  Who doesn't enjoy a day for eating tons of food and spending time with the people you love?  All my interest in baking and cooking and caused me to get great pleasure out of cooking for the people I care about and sharing my food experiments with them.  This year, I decided it was high time I baked my first turkey for the family.  This is a big task; it is the main dish of the day after all.  I've seen some catastrophies with Thanksgiving baking, from a turkey taking so long to cook it ended up being sliced raw to my poor brother trying to fry a turkey only to discover a leak in the fryer that brought the day to a halt and caused a several hour delay on Thanksgiving.  I wasn't about to let anything happen to my big baking experience, so I started planning early. 


I grabbed the biggest turkey I could find (24.5 pounds!) on the Friday before Thanksgiving and figured I'd better give it plenty of time to thaw.  I put it in the fridge on Saturday.  My plan was to thaw it until Thursday, toss some butter and herbs on it, and bake away, but then spoke to a very experienced cook at work about my big baking plans, and he said I can't possibly bake a turkey without brining it first.  If you aren't familiar with brine, it's basically a seasoned marinade.  So despite my initial plan I decided I would take his advice and do this right.

Of course I could have grabbed a brining kit, but where's the fun in that?  Being that this turkey was a massive beast, there was no way I could just set it up in a stock pot and let it soak as I simple didn't have one large enough.  So after tossing around some ideas and considering a bathtub, buying a giant brand new trash can and cleaning it, and setting a bag in a cooler, I finally hopped on google and found a suggestion for using turkey-sized oven baking bags for the brine.  Set up in the roasting pan, I finally had a solution.

So next was the brine recipe.  Being that I have never worked with a brine in my life, I checked out a few and ultimately decided on this one.  On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I mixed it in a large stockpot, using brown rather than white sugar and tossed in some rosemary to change it up.

After preparing the brine and removing the neck and gravy package from the inside of the turkey, I rinsed the turkey thoroughly and placed it upside-down in one of the oven bags.  I set it up that way partially due to the fact that the turkey was heavy and a bit difficult to move, but realized that letting the breast portion of the bird soak in the brine was the best way to get all the flavor in the right place.


I poured in the brine mixture, sealed the bag, and placed the broiler pan in the fridge so it could soak.


After letting it marinate in the brine overnight (the total time was about 18 hours), I opened the bag, drained out some of the liquid, then removed the turkey and rinsed it (inside and out).  I set it up again in a fresh oven roasting bag and placed it in the clean broiler pan.


Next, I melted some butter and poured it over the turkey.  I was surprised and happy when I realized the bags cut the bake time down by at least an hour, so I placed the turkey in the oven and let it bake for 4 hours.  Turkey perfection to follow:


As you can see in the above image, some of the drippings leaked from the bag, so I drained it a bit before moving the bird over to my family's house for dinner.  The bag not only helped with baking, but made transporting it a much cleaner process.


The only word I can think of to describe this bird is, "Wow!"  This was literally the moistest turkey I have ever had.  While I may be slightly partial to my own cooking, I have experienced some Thansksgiving turkeys that were a tad bland, however this was far from it.  I tend to get sick of leftovers but truthfully couldn't stop myself from pigging out on the leftover turkey breast pieces for 3 days.  The combination of brining in seasoning and cooking in the oven bag really kept the moisture in and made for one delicious dinner.  For my first time around, this turned out exceptional, and I am delighted that I got to make everyone's dinner special.  I got rave reviews all around and since this turkey was huge, there were plenty of leftovers to share.  As a matter of fact, I stuck some in some FoodSaver bags and froze it and intend on coming up with some leftover concoction soon (turkey pot pie, perhaps?).  When in doubt, BRINE!

Turkey Brine and Baking Recipe

Ingredients:

1 gallon cold water (16 cups)
1 1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons celery seed
2 tablespoons ground sage
1 tablespoon ground thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary
2 tablespoons butter (for baking)

Instructions:

Mix water, soy sauce, kosher salt, brown sugar, celery seed, ground sage, ground thyme, and rosemary together in a large stockpot and mix well. Remove thawed turkey from packaging, taking the neck and giblets out of the inside, and rinse well. Place turkey in a large container or turkey-sized oven bag and pour brine over it. Let soak overnight.

Turkey baking instructions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove turkey from bag with brine and rinse well, inside and out. Place turkey in fresh turkey-sized oven bag or in pan. Bake according to size chart. For a 25 pound turkey, bake for 4 hours in an oven bag, or 5-6 hours in a broiler pan.

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