Roasted Brined Turkey with Pan Gravy
There are many differing opinions on how to roast a turkey so that it comes out moist, juicy and evenly cooked.
We've tried a number of different brines, roasting methods, temperatures and times over the years and have developed a few roast turkey recipes that give us consistently good results.
This is our most basic brined turkey recipe, tailored for fresh, minimally processed birds weighing 10 to 12 pounds (see our notes about larger turkeys).
Serve with our Old-Fashioned Bread Stuffing as part of a classic turkey dinner.
Tips For Buying A Fresh Turkey
If you are planning to use our brine recipe, it is very important that the turkey you buy has not already been injected with a salt solution.
Read the label carefully, or ask your butcher! If you want to use a turkey larger than 12 pounds (up to a maximum of 14 lbs) increase the time in the brine by 2 hours.
- 10 to 12 pound minimally processed fresh turkey (see notes below)
- 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 stalk celery including leafy top, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 4 to 6 cups chicken broth, divided
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
For the brine:
- 10 whole cloves
- 10 whole allspice berries
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 gallons water, divided
Brining the turkey:
- To prepare the brine place the cloves, allspice, cinnamon and bay leaves in a large saucepan. Add 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the spices with a slotted spoon, then stir in the salt and sugar until completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in an additional quart of water (this speeds cooling).
- Add the mixture to a food-safe 5-gallon plastic tub. Pour in an additional 5 quarts of ice water. It's important that the water be icy cold before you add the turkey.
- Remove the neck, giblets, liver, etc. from the turkey and discard or reserve for another use. Drain off any liquid that has accumulated in the cavity of the turkey and add the bird to the cold brine.
- Be sure the turkey is fully submerged and that the cavity has filled with liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours.
Note: If you feel the turkey is unevenly submerged, turn it once about midway through the brining time.
Roasting the turkey:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and thoroughly coat a roasting pan and rack with nonstick spray.
- In a large bowl, toss together the apple chunks, onion, celery, garlic, sage, thyme and rosemary.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brining liquid. Rinse it well, both inside and out, pat dry thoroughly with paper towels and transfer to a flat surface.
- Stuff the turkey with the apple-onion mixture, tuck the wings behind and under the back of the bird and tie the drumstick ends together with kitchen twine.
- Place the turkey on the roasting rack breast side up and set aside for 1 hour to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Just before roasting, carefully work your fingers under the skin of the turkey breast to loosen it from the meat. Spread 2 tablespoons of the softened butter under the skin, massaging afterward to distribute the butter as evenly as possible. Take the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and rub it into the outer skin on each of the drumsticks.
- Pour 3 cups of chicken broth into the roasting pan and place the turkey in the oven.
- Roast for 30 minutes at 425°F, then rotate the roasting pan in the oven and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Continue roasting, basting the turkey with the accumulating pan juices every 30 to 40 minutes.
- Roasting time for a whole, unstuffed turkey is approximately 13 minutes per pound, so at this point, depending on size, you can expect to cook the bird for an additional 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
- This time can vary though, so to avoid overcooking, start checking the turkey's temperature after 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours of total cooking time.
- To properly check the temperature, insert an instant-read thermometer into the meatiest part of the thigh. Be careful not to touch bone with the thermometer or you won't get an accurate reading.
- The turkey should be done when the internal temperature of the thigh registers 165°F.
- Remove the turkey from the oven, reserve the pan juices for gravy, and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.
To make pan gravy:
While the turkey is resting, skim any excess fat from the pan juices and transfer to a 4 cup measure. Add enough extra chicken broth to equal 3 cups of liquid total.
Pour the broth into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/3 cup water. Add to the simmering broth and continue whisking just until thickened and smooth. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to a bowl or gravy boat for serving.
Notes On Turkey Roasting Times
The total roasting time needed for a whole turkey is an inexact science at best. Much depends on the temperature of the turkey when it goes into the oven, how much heat is lost when opening the oven door for basting and the accuracy of the oven itself.
Use both your good judgment and a reliable meat thermometer. If you use a convection oven, plan to reduce the cooking time by about 25 percent and start checking the temperature after 1 to 1-1/4 hours.