A few weeks ago, Kim from Stirring the Pot asked if anyone had ever tried Alton Brown's Roast Turkey. Apparently it had received five stars from over 2000 people. Being curious I had to go check it out, and then I became curious, and then I became obsessed! I had to try that turkey! So my family enjoyed a mini Thanksgiving meal before the actual holiday to satiate my curiosity. We'll call it a warmup meal.
This recipe calls for a brine. I had never brined meat before, in fact, I didn't even know that people brined meat until I had the food network channel! The brine was fairly simple, although we did have to go to a few different stores to find the stuff. We had our turkey in the brine the night before cooking it, and in the oven the next day at three o'clock. We brined our turkey in a medium sized, scrubbed out cooler. It sat out on our patio overnight. Luckily the weather is cool, so the ice was still frozen by the time I pulled it out to roast it.
So, here's my review. I LOOOOOOVED how moist the brine made my turkey. There was very little juice in the pan when I pulled it out of the oven, but when I cut into the turkey breast, juice just spilled out of it. I also really liked the slightly salty flavor the brine gave the turkey, but it also gave a flavor that took away from the traditional turkey flavor. It almost tasted like it had been smoked. I didn't mind it, but it didn't taste quite like Thanksgiving to me. (I know I'm probably being really nit-picky, but hey, these things are important to me!). I also didn't see any purpose to the aromatics that I stuffed in the turkey, couldn't smell it, couldn't taste it. I probably wouldn't do that again, or I would try a different combo of aromatics. So, in a nutshell, I give this four out of five stars. I'm completely sold on the brining technique, but I would probably try a different, maybe simpler brine next time, and I'll skip the aromatics. I'm so glad I tried this recipe though, it opened my eyes to an entirely different way to roast turkey, and hopefully I'll never have a dry turkey again!
Alton Brown's Roast Turkey
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger (if you live in the east, i found this at acme)
1 gallon heavily iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.