Nov 24, 2015

Herb-Brined Turkey with Classic Stuffing

Prep Time: 1 d 1 hr
Cook Time: 4 hrs 30 mins
Soaking your Thanksgiving turkey overnight (or longer) ensures that the meat will stay moist after roasting. The aromatic herbs add extra depth and flavor to your turkey.

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Soaking your Thanksgiving turkey overnight (or longer) in an herb brine ensures that the meat will stay moist after roasting. The aromatic herbs add extra depth and flavor to your turkey.

My family always buys a fresh turkey for thanksgiving, meaning it has never been frozen. While we usually have to put the order in a few weeks ahead of time with the local butcher it is well worth the extra effort. Fresh is always better.

Herb Brined Turkey with Classic Stuffing

Why Brine Turkey?

The process of brining helps to keep meat juicy as it penetrates much deeper than a marinade. It’s important to let the brine cool before adding the turkey to the brine. Using cold water ensures the brine doesn’t boil or poach the turkey. While many brines use both salt and sugar, I use salt, garlic and an abundance of herbs and spices like bay leaves, fennel, rosemary, sage and peppercorns in my turkey brine recipe.

Both a dry brine and wet brines such as this one infuse the turkeys meat with flavor from the spices and salt. This helps to reduce the amount of liquid expelled during the roasting process, helping to keep the turkey as juicy as possible.

Tips for Buying Your Thanksgiving Turkey

  • One of the biggest holiday dinner cardinal sins is not buying enough food for the number of guests around your table. In order to avoid that issue I abide by the rule of thumb of buying about 1¼ – 1½ pounds of turkey per person.
  • If you are someone who likes to have plenty of leftovers to make sandwiches and turkey hash then lean more towards 1½ pounds per person. Plus I like to tack on an extra pound or so just to account for any last minute guests that may show up.

How to Make Herb Brined Turkey with Classic Stuffing

For brining the turkey:

  1. Simmer brine. One to two days before you are planning to roast the turkey, bring water, salt, bay leaves and remaining herbs to a simmer in a large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Let brine cool. Stir constantly until the salt has dissolved, then remove the pot from the heat and let cool. If the water is too hot when you add the turkey, it may poach it.
  3. Add turkey to brine. Place the turkey in the 5-gallon container. Add the brine, making sure the turkey is completely covered, if it is not totally submerged, weigh it down with a plate.
  4. Brine the turkey. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to two days, turning the turkey once.

For the stuffing:

  1. Sauté vegetables. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and allow to melt, then add the onion and celery, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Make the stuffing. Remove from heat. In a large bowl combine the stuffing bread, onion, celery, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, salt and pepper.
  3. Add stock. Add the stock ¼ at a time until the bread is hydrated.

For serving:

  1. Dry turkey. One hour before you are ready to roast, remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry inside and out with paper towels. Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 45 minutes, this allows for the turkey to cook evenly.
  2. Prep turkey. Heat the oven to 350°F. Set a rack inside a large roasting pan. Tuck tips of wings under bird. Add stuffing using recipe below to the inside of the turkey. Pour 4 cups of water into the bottom of the pan.
  3. Cook remaining stuffing. Cook any remaining stuffing in a 3-quart glass baking dish until top is lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
  4. Roast turkey. Roast the turkey uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove the turkey from oven and baste the turkey with the juices from the pan. Add more water to the bottom of the pan if needed to keep it at ¼-inch.
  5. Baste turkey and continue cooking. Continue cooking and basting the turkey every 30 minutes for about 4 hours until the internal temperature of the turkey registers at 165°F.
  6. Let the turkey cool and carve. Transfer to a cutting board and the turkey let rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe

  • If there isn’t room in your refrigerator for such a large container, put the turkey and brine into a 5-gallon plastic brining bag, seal or tie shut then put the bagged bird into a cooler filled with ice, replenishing it as needed to keep the temperature at 40 degrees.
  • The simplest way to find your ideal cook time is to plan to cook the turkey for 13 minutes for every pound at 350ºF.
  • I recommend using an instant read thermometer to get the most accurate reading on your turkey. This ensures it does not overcook or undercook. To accurately get the temperature it is important to get the thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey.
  • Cooking the turkey at 350 degrees ensures it cooks evenly and all the way through and develops a golden brown skin without becoming overdone.
  • Make sure you let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes prior to carving.

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Herb Brined Turkey with Classic Stuffing

Print Pin
Prep Time 1 d 1 hr
Cook Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Serves 10

Equipment:

  • 5-gallon container (stockpot, tub or bucket)
  • Enough room in the refrigerator to hold a 5-gallon container

Ingredients:

For brining the turkey:

  • 1 Fresh 15 to 17 pound whole Turkey, (neck and giblets discarded or removed and reserved for stock), thawed if needed
  • 7 quarts water
  • 1 ½ cups coarse sea salt
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons dried sage
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns

For the stuffing:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 bag stuffing bread
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon dried sage
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon marjoram
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth

Instructions:

For brining the turkey:

  • One to two days before you are planning to roast the turkey, bring water, salt, bay leaves and remaining herbs to a simmer in a large stockpot over medium heat.
  • Stir constantly until the salt has dissolved, then remove the pot from the heat and let cool. If the water is too hot when you add the turkey, it may poach it.
  • Place the turkey in the 5-gallon container. Add the brine, making sure the turkey is completely covered, if it is not totally submerged, weigh it down with a plate.
  • Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to two days, turning the turkey once.

For the stuffing:

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and allow to melt, then add the onion and celery, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat. In a large bowl combine the stuffing bread, onion, celery, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, salt and pepper.
  • Add the stock ¼ at a time until the bread is hydrated.

For serving:

  • One hour before you are ready to roast, remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry inside and out with paper towels. Let the turkey stand at room temperature for 45 minutes, this allows for the turkey to cook evenly.
  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Set a rack inside a large roasting pan. Tuck tips of wings under bird. Add stuffing using recipe below to the inside of the turkey. Pour 4 cups of water into the bottom of the pan.
  • Cook any remaining stuffing in a 3-quart glass baking dish until top is lightly browned, about 25 minutes.
  • Roast the turkey uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove the turkey from oven and baste the turkey with the juices from the pan. Add more water to the bottom of the pan if needed to keep it at ¼-inch.
  • Continue cooking and basting the turkey every 30 minutes for about 4 hours until the internal temperature of the turkey registers at 165°F.
  • Transfer to a cutting board and the turkey let rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Notes:

Note: If there isn’t room in your refrigerator for such a large container, put the turkey and brine into a 5-gallon plastic brining bag, seal or tie shut then put the bagged bird into a cooler filled with ice, replenishing it as needed to keep the temperature at 40 degrees.

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