I’m the designated turkey buyer, briner and baker in the family! This title has been mine for quite some time and I’m not about to relinquish the role just yet. Weeks ahead of the big day, I ensure that my perfect turkey is selected. As I’m currently living in London, it’s a bit tricky to find a turkey that isn’t frozen, as the fresh ones are readily available for Christmas; however, I’ve managed to source one from Jimmy’s Farm, located in Ipswich and delivered through Costco (I have been a loyal customer since 1983!!). This is the third year in a row that I’ve cooked a turkey from Jimmy’s Farm. Finding the perfect turkey is something I take very seriously, as I will only serve the freshest, free-rage bird that I can find.
Look what just arrived!!
I always get asked, “How do you cook your turkey?” “What is your secret?” Well, honestly, it’s Alton Brown‘s method. I’ve tried other recipes and nothing comes close to the perfection, scientific logic and simplicity of this one. I usually don’t stuff the turkey, as it slows down the cooking time and increases the potential for drying out the meat. Enjoy the following videos and hopefully, this will take the mystery and challenge out of prepping and baking the bird!
Brining the Bird
Baking the Bird
I hope those videos helped. It’s so important to learn how to properly prepare meat, as food contamination is a big concern. Well, now it’s my turn to follow Alton’s instructions with a Vigneview twist. Let’s see how it goes…fingers crossed!!
Two days before Thanksgiving Dinner!
My turkey arrived bright and early! Thank you Jimmy’s Farm and Costco! The first thing I do is put the turkey in the refrigerator and then begin making the brine.
Begin by placing a saucepan on a burner. Add 1 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of whole cloves, 2 tablespoons of candied ginger, 1 tablespoon of peppercorns, 8 chicken stock cubes and 1 Litre of water to the saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high, stir continuously to combine and dissolve the ingredients and bring to a boil. Once the brine is boiling, turn off the heat and set the solution aside to cool. I often place the saucepan outside.
Once the brine has cooled, pour it into a container and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
24 Hours Before Thanksgiving Dinner
The night before the big day, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and discard the packaging. Place the turkey in a clean sink, remove any giblets (they might be in a bag located inside the turkey) and rinse the bird thoroughly with cold water. At this point, if there are any little feather bits still left on the bird, remove them with tweezers or your hands.
You will need a large, clean bucket with a lid, preferably one that holds 25 Litres of liquid.
Begin by pouring the refrigerated brine into the bucket. Then add 7 Litres of ice water, followed by placing the turkey, breast side down.
Cover the bucket and place somewhere cool. I place mine in our outdoor shed, ensuring that the door is secure so that our city foxes don’t enjoy the turkey before we do!!
Now that your turkey is off for its spa treatment…you can grab a glass of wine and enjoy the calm before the storm…Thanksgiving Day!! Although I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner, I do have to admit, I’m usually the first one in bed that evening.
3.5 Hours Before Thanksgiving Dinner
Today’s the day! Exactly 3.5 hours until dinner. Let’s get cooking!!
Set your oven to 250°C.
Begin by washing your sink thoroughly, as you will be using it to prepare the turkey. Then go and get your brining bucket and carefully remove your turkey. I always set the bucket near the sink to ensure that there is minimal mess. Once the turkey is in the sink, rinse it thoroughly inside and out with cold water. Once rinsed, transfer the bird to a roasting pan with a roasting rack and pat dry with paper towels.
According to Alton Brown, stuffing the turkey is not a great thing to do. It actually increases the cooking time because both the meat and the stuffing need to be fully cooked in order to prevent bacteria from growing; not exactly a desirable Thanksgiving accompaniment! Additionally, a lengthier cooking time dries out the meat and we definitely don’t want a dry turkey!! An ingenious option is to stuff the cavity with aromatics, which infuse the meat with complementary flavours and aromas. Before stuffing the bird with the aromatics, heat the fruit (apple or orange) and onion in a bowl of water for about 1 minute in the microwave. This softens the fruit and breaks open the cells a bit to start releasing the aromatics. Discard the water and stuff the aromatics inside the bird, including the cinnamon sticks and fresh herbs.
Ensure that the turkey legs are tied together. Most come already tied, but if yours doesn’t, then grab some butcher’s twine and tie those little legs together! Then tuck the turkey’s wings under it. In order to do this, you will want to be a bit forceful until you hear a little ‘snap’…poor bird!! If you don’t do this, the wings will burn, as they are very thin and stick out from the bird. They don’t have any protection from the heat. Finally, rub the entire bird with truffle oil. I use truffle oil because it’s so delicious and simply enriches the whole experience!
Now, you’re read to bake that bird! Carefully place your turkey in the oven for 30 minutes at 250°C.
Next, create your ‘Turkey Triangle” out of aluminium foil. I used a piece of foil that was 82cm long. This may seem rather large, but then you can open it up when the turkey is finished baking and re-use it to cover the turkey while it rests.
After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 180°C and remove the turkey from the oven. Insert a temperature probe in to the thickest part of the breast meat and set it to go off when the internal temperature reaches 155°C. Cover the turkey with the ‘Turkey Triangle’ and return to the oven. Bake for another 1.5 hours, or until the temperature probe reaches 155°C.
When the turkey is has reached the desired internal temperature. Remove it from the oven. DO NOT WASH THE ROASTING PAN!!! Sorry for shouting, but trust me…you will need the roasting pan to make the gravy. Use lifting forks to transfer it to a cutting board. Open the ‘Turkey Triangle’ and cover the bird while you make the gravy.
I love gravy! It’s such a beautiful, savoury addition to a festive meal. To make the gravy, take your roasting pan, with all its bits of goodness, over double burners set to medium heat. Add the red wine and chicken broth to the pan and whisk the goodness together with the liquids. You may need to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan. You don’t want to let any of the goodness hide from your whisk!! Then increase the heat, bring the sauce to a gentle boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat, and pour the sauce into the gravy separator. You should see a greasy golden layer of fat on top and the darker liquid underneath. Carefully pour the liquid (not the grease) into another container, while the greasy fat stays in the separator.
Then pour the grease (not the liquid) back into the roasting pan, add the flour and whisk together. Turn the double burners to medium heat and slowly add the liquid to the flour and grease mixture, ensuring that you are whisking vigorously the entire time. You don’t want any lumps of flour floating around. Once the gravy has thickened, season with salt & pepper, pour it into a gravy boat and serve.
Once you’ve set the table, arranged all your side dishes, made your gravy and poured a glass of wine, you’re ready to dig in and carve the turkey! Looking for the perfect wine pairing to go with your amazing Thanksgiving dinner? Check out my Thanksgiving wine pairing post.
I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Let’s take the time to celebrate with family and friends. We all have so much to be thankful for.
Alton Brown’s Thanksgiving Turkey with a Vigneview Twist
- 25 Litre brining bucket with lid
- Roasting Rack
- Roasting Pan
- Aluminum Foil
- Temperature Probe
- Butcher's Twine
- Lifting Forks
- Gravy Separator
- Wire Whisk
- 1 cup salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar light or dark
- 2 tbsp pepper corns
- 2 tbsp whole cloves or allspice berries whatever you can find
- 2 tbsp candied ginger chopped into small pieces
- 8 chicken bouillon cubes
- 1 Litre water
- 7 Litres iced water
- 1 orange or red apple cut in quarters
- 1 onion cut in quarters
- 3 cinnamon whole sticks
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5-6 Kg Fresh, free-range Turkey
- 3 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp truffle oil or canola oil
- Bits of goodness leftover in the roasting pan
- 1 cup red wine
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1/3 cup flour
- salt and pepper to taste
Turkey Brine Preparation (2 days before Thanksgiving dinner)
- Two days before your Thanksgiving meal, combine the brining ingredients (except the 7 litres of iced water) in a saucepan, stir continuously while bringing to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Once the sugar, salt and bouillon cubes are fully dissolved, remove from the heat, cover with a lid and chill. I usually place it outdoors and then refrigerate.
Brining the Turkey (1 day before Thanksgiving dinner)
- Add the refrigerated brining solution to a clean 25 Litre bucket.
- Add 7 Litres of iced water to the brining solution and set aside.
- Remove the turkey from the packaging, including the giblets which are usually found inside the turkey's cavity.
- Place the turkey in a clean sink and rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water. You may wish to remove any leftover feather bits with tweezers or your fingers.
- Place the turkey breast side down in the bucket of brining solution and cover with a lid.
- Store in a cool place overnight.
Turkey Preparation (3 hours before Thanksgiving dinner)
- Heat the oven to 250°C.
- Carefully, remove the turkey from the brine and place in a clean sink.
- Rinse the turkey with cold water inside and out.
- Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels.
- Gently, twist the wing tips under the turkey. You want to hear a bit of a 'snap'. If they stick up, they will burn.
- Rub a little salt inside the turkey cavity.
- Microwave the fruit and onion in a bowl of warm water for 1 minute. Remove them from the water. Insert the fruit, onion and remaining aromatic ingredients inside the turkey.
- If the legs of the turkey aren't already tied, then do this. You will want to use butcher's twine.
- Rub oil (truffle or canola) all over the outside of the turkey
Baking the Turkey
- Place the turkey in the oven and bake for 30 minutes at 250°C.
- After 30 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 180°C and remove the turkey from the oven.
- Insert the temperature probe into the thickest part of the breast meat and set the probe to go off when it reaches 155°C.
- Cover the turkey with the foil 'Turkey Triangle' and carefully place it back in the oven.
- The turkey should cook for another 1.5 hours.
- Once the turkey has reached the desired internal temperature of 155°C, according to the temperature probe, remove it from the oven.
- Lift it with off the rack with the lifting forks and place it on a cutting board. Cover with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Do not wash the baking pan, as you will need the remaining bits of goodness to make gravy.
- Place the roasting pan with all its bits of goodness over double burners set to medium heat.
- Add the wine and chicken broth to the pan and whisk the goodness together with the liquids.
- Increase the heat, bring the sauce to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, and pour the sauce into the gravy separator. You should see a greasy layer of fat on top.
- Carefully pour the liquid (not the grease) into another container.
- Pour the grease (not the liquid) back into the roasting pan.
- Add the flour to the grease and whisk together.
- Then turn the double burners to medium heat and slowly add the liquid to the flour and grease mixture, ensuring that you are whisking vigorously the entire time.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Once the gravy has thickened, pour it into a gravy boat and serve.
- Red wine: Pinot Noir or Gamay(Beaujolais Cru, Beaujolais Nouveau, or from another exciting region)
- White wine: Gewurztraminer or Riesling