This recipe shows you how to make the best Thanksgiving turkey ever, step-by-step. We walk you through a 3-step approach so you get the most moist and tender turkey that will have your friends and family raving for years. The first step is to brine the turkey over night, followed by a special high heat cooking method, and third is finishing it off with a long resting period (45-60 mins) so all the juices can be completely reabsorbed into the meat. Before we get started, you’ll need a few pieces of equipment:
- A cooler or bucket (with a top) big enough to hold the turkey + 2 gallons of brine. A 5-gallon bucket from Home Depot or somewhere online works for most turkeys under 15 lbs but for bigger birds, you’ll need a cooler.
- An instant read/probe thermometer (something like this)
- A roasting pan
Now let’s go make the best turkey of your life…
- 1 thawed/fresh turkey between 13-20 pounds. Think 1.5 lbs of turkey per person. If you’re cooking for just a couple of ya, go for the 13-pounder anyway. You’re doing all this work, might as well have a bunch of leftovers and extras for the dog and cat.
- 2 gallons of ice water, plus about 2 cups of additional water for dissolving the brine
- 3 cups of Your Bangin’ Turkey Brine (or just get our whole Thanksgiving brine + spice kit, which includes the Black Truffle Salt listed below PLUS our Friends & Family holiday spice blend for sides like stuffing and gravy and our beloved Pumpkin Pie Spice)
- 1 Tablespoon Black Truffle Salt
- 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 stick of butter
- 2–3 stalks celery
- 2–3 carrots
- 1 large onion
- 1 head of garlic plus 2-3 extra cloves
The DAY BEFORE Cooking the Turkey:
- Sterilize the bucket/cooler you’ll use for brining. Remove the neck, giblets and any organs from inside the turkey, and set aside if you’re making gravy. Dissolve all of the Bangin’ Turkey Brine in a medium pot with about 2 cups of water. It should only take a few minutes to dissolve the salt and sugar in the brine, you won’t need to get it to a boil. When dissolved, set aside to cool.
- Once cooled, pour the liquid brine mixture in your bucket/cooler and add just 1 gallon of ice water. Next, add the turkey and top it off with the other gallon of ice water to completely cover the turkey. Most bucket/coolers and turkeys will require 2 gallons of ice water, but you may need a little more or less. Close the cooler or cover the bucket with a lid.
- Place the bucket/cooler in the fridge to keep the turkey cold overnight (temperature should be about 40 degrees Fahrenheit). If you don’t have room in the fridge, you can keep it outside if the temperature is not freezing and around 40 degrees. If you keep it outside, check the temperature a few times to make sure it’s where it should be. When celebrating Thanksgiving in Chicago, New York and Kentucky, I’ve always left mine outside (tightly sealed!). If it’s a bit warmer out, I just add more ice to the mixture to keep it around the 40 degree mark.
- Next, let’s make some roasted garlic compound butter (the night before still). Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, chop the top off the head of garlic so you can just see the tips of the cloves, drizzle it with the olive oil, wrap completely in foil, and bake for 35 minutes. When the garlic is finished, set it aside to cool and cut the stick of butter into 8 smaller pieces and put in a bowl. When the garlic is cooled, squeeze the cloves from the head of garlic into the bowl and mix the garlic and butter together with a fork or in a food processor. Shape the butter into a cylinder shape, then wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and stick in the fridge.
The DAY OF Cooking the Turkey (aka usually Thanksgiving Day, but also often known as just a regular Thursday night in the Pinch house, hee hee):
IMPORTANT Cooking Time Notes So You Can Plan Dinner Time: With a 16 lb turkey, this cooking method will take about 2-2 1/2 hours to cook, and you’ll need an extra 45-60 minutes of rest time before carving time.
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Yep, 500 – you read that right. When you cook the turkey really hot first, you’re reducing the overall amount of time it has to sit in the oven, which is good because ovens dry turkeys out. This is a super secret tip and will result in a super moist and juicy turkey.
- Take the turkey out of the brine and use a towel to completely dry it, inside and outside. Next massage the turkey with the compound butter, outside and inside. You also want to work your fingers under the skin and massage the butter between the skin and the meat, especially on the breast. Now put the celery, carrots, onion and garlic cloves into the cavity (you can tie/truss the legs if you want but you don’t have to) and place the turkey in the roasting pan.
- Roast the turkey at 500 degrees for 30 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 and roast until the the breast reaches 155-161 degrees F, or the thigh reaches 180 degrees F.
- Remove from oven, sprinkle the Black Truffle Salt all over the turkey, and lightly tent it with foil. Let rest for 45-60 minutes. No really, let it rest. This is a big deal and helps the juices settle so it stays moist (yes, I know everyone hates that word UNLESS you’re talking about turkey!). If you cut it too early, the juices pour out and it will dry out super fast and taste like Uncle Larry’s 2014 chalky disaster.
- Once it’s rested, you’re ready carve your turkey. There are many methods for this, but our preferred way is to focus on half the bird first, and cut the breast off, remove the wing and drum stick and remove the thigh. Then slice the breast and thigh and serve on a platter with the wing and drum stick. Enjoy!
From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!
- Category: Thanksgiving
- Method: roasting
- Cuisine: American