Brined Roasted Turkey

Rachel Willen
  • Yield: servings


4cups kosher salt
3/4cup granulated sugar
2gallons spring or filtered water, room temperature
1-- (12- to 14-pound) whole turkey (neck and giblets held aside from brining)
4-- yellow onions, cut into wedges
4-- carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
4stalks celery, cut into 1-inch chunks
10 to 12-- leafy sprigs of parsley
10 to 12-- leafy sprigs of thyme
8 to 10-- sage leaves
8tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
8large garlic cloves, crushed
12-- chicken wings
1cup white wine, separated into 1/2 cup portions
1tablespoon cornstarch
-- Soy sauce to taste
-- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Begin the brining process at least a full day ahead. Total time needed for brining and air-drying: 12 hours minimum, 30 hours maximum.
  1. You’ll need a stockpot or container big enough to hold your turkey and enough water to completely submerge the turkey, about 2 gallons. Mix together the salt, sugar and water until the salt and sugar fully dissolve. Add the turkey (hold giblets and neck aside for pan roasting) and submerge in liquid. You may have to use a smaller pot lid, heavy plate or some other weight to keep the turkey submerged. Cover container and refrigerate (or hold at 38F in a cooler) for 4 to 6 hours.
  2. Remove turkey from brine, rinse, and pat dry. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 8 to 24 hours. This allows the skin to dry out, resulting in a crispier bird.
  3. Position oven rack to lowest position. Preheat oven to 350F. 
  4. Place turkey, breast side down, in the center of a large roasting pan, or on a roasting rack over the pan. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with roughly a third of the carrots, onions, celery, parsley, sage and thyme, along with 2 tablespoons of butter. Truss the turkey to close off the cavity well at both ends and keep the legs close to the breast. 
  5. Add the remaining vegetables and herbs to the roasting pan, scattering evenly around (or under if on a rack) the turkey. Add the garlic, turkey giblets, chicken wings and neck. Add the wine and 1/2 cup water to the pan. Melt the remaining butter and fully coat the turkey with it.
  6. Roast uncovered for 45 minutes. Turn the turkey, a quarter turn, so that one wing side is facing up, and baste with pan juices, adding more water to the pan if it is dry. (You want to keep the pan moist so that pan juices and veggies don’t burn.) Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, and then flip the turkey so the other wing side is facing up. Baste again, roast for another 15 to 20 minutes. Then, turn the turkey a quarter turn, so the breast side is facing up. Baste and roast until the internal temperature of the leg registers 170F, about 30 to 40 minutes. 
  7. Remove from oven, place a tent of foil over the bird, and let rest for 20 minutes, minimum to redistribute juices within the meat. 
  8. While the turkey rests, start the gravy. Remove the neck and giblets from the pan. If you are a fan of giblet flavor in your gravy, chop them up and reserve. Before transferring the turkey to a platter, make sure you empty it of any juices that have run into the cavity, back into the pan. Don’t waste that flavor! Continue to rest the turkey on a platter, tented with foil.
  9. Pour all the liquid from the pan through a fine mesh sieve, and discard the solids. Let the liquid stand for a few minutes and the fat will rise to the top. If you have a fat separator cup, use it to separate and discard the fat. If not, carefully use a ladle to remove the fat. 
  10. Pour the pan juices back into the roasting pan, and place the pan over two vertical burners on your stove. Add the giblets here, if you are using them. Bring the liquid to a boil. In a 1/4 cup of white wine mixed with a 1/4 cup of water, dissolve the cornstarch completely, and then add it to the pan juices. Continue to boil, until the mixture thickens and the wine alcohol burns off a bit, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, or soy sauce. 
Note: Brined turkeys tend to cook quicker than unbrined birds. This could be because the brine already partially “cooks” the meat ahead. At any rate the conventional 20 minutes per pound may not hold true, so to be sure you don’t end up with an overcooked, or undercooked bird, invest in a decent meat thermometer and follow directions for safe meat temps.
This recipe is a mixture of my own tried and true methods combined with a few great ideas adapted from Daniel Del Vecchio’s turkey recipe as it appears in Home Cooking with Jean-Georges, by Jean-George Vongerichten.
Recipe courtesy of Rachel Willen,