This Thanksgiving, I attempted the longest brine I’ve ever done, at about 18 hours total. Had a few stressful moments during the first half of roasting, worrying about temps and such, but it turned out great.
Here is the mix of recipes I used, with some of my own edits:
1. Ordered a 15.8lb “Willie Bird” turkey (see picture in post below) from Marczyk’s on 17th St, Denver, about two weeks beforehand. Willie Birds are free-range, organic, no antibiotics or coloring, and birds are never frozen. You can really taste the difference between these and grocery store butterball-type turkeys. After tax, it came out to $3.98/lb or $63. If you live near a natural food grocer or local butcher, buy it from them, because places like Whole Foods and Williams-Sonoma up-charge almost double that.
2. That said, I did buy a 1.2lb jar of brining blend (see picture in post below) from Williams-Sonoma because I’ve read great reviews about it and they obviously put a lot of time into their recipe. You can buy that here or in their stores. It’s easy to make your own too, but you may end up spending more buying all the spices required. You’ll want to do the boiling instructions for the brine no later than Tuesday, so that it can cool off before you mix it in a bag with the turkey on Wednesday.
3. Pick-up the turkey the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The turkey does have a microfreeze layer around it, so you’ll want to thaw it out just in the fridge Tues/Weds. Wednesday night I began brining.
4. The Brine: I bought a 4-pack of brining bags and used two of them, double bagging the cooked-and-cooled brine and turkey, then tossing that in a fridge (if it wont fit in your fridge, keep it in a cooler with ice water and ice that is regularly replaced. You must keep it cool).
4. Cooking instructions for a Willie Bird from Marczyks are here, but basically:
- Pull the turkey out of the brine 1-2 hours before ready to throw in oven. This will allow turkey to cook evenly. Preheat oven to 375.
Baste a little oil or butter on the skin. Salt and pepper the bird inside and out - I used my favorite Sea Salt, ‘Alaska Pure Sea Salt’ (see picture in post below)
Put a quartered onion, 2 stalks of celery, a chopped carrot, and coarsely chopped aromatic herbs (marjoram, thyme, bay, rosemary, parsley. etc) loosely inside and in the roasting pan
Start roasting at 375. This is the tricky part. Because the brine was 18-hours, I believe the turkey started cooking too quickly at too high a temperature. It browned too soon while the inside was still very slowly cooking. I adjusted the oven to 350 and turned on its convection feature, which allows the air to evenly rotate around the inside of the oven and cook more evenly. I’d suggest reading up on convection baking/roasting if your oven has it, because it does get tricky since convection cooks quicker. Long story short - What should have been about 3-3.5 hours of cooking only took 2.5-3 hours. No matter what, always use a good meat thermometer and check in a few places periodically. Overcooked meat sucks, but undercooked meat makes people sick.
- Once it reaches 160 in the thickest part of the breast or 155 or so in the thigh, pull it out, let it rest for 30 minutes, and then cut up and serve.
Finally, I salvaged the carcass and made a delicious turkey stock later that weekend, which I’ll post on here hopefully soon.