Turkey brining 101

Want the most succulent bird ever you've ever roasted? Better brine it!

Nothing beats brining for infusing turkey with moistness and revving up its natural taste. Simply treat the bird to an overnight salt water bath flavoured with a few herbs and taste boosters. We threw in oranges, lemons, fresh ginger and garlic. The result is an incredibly succulent bird. Even the white meat juices flow when you slice into the breast.

What you’ll need
3 oranges
2 lemons
1 head of garlic
1 cup (250 mL) Kosher salt
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
6 thick slices fresh ginger
3 bay leaves
1/2 bunch fresh thyme or 2 tbsp (30 mL) dried thyme leaves
1 tbsp (15 mL) black peppercorns
1 tsp (5 mL) chili flakes

1. Make the brine
Place 8 cups (2 L) water in a large wide saucepan set over high heat. Cut 3 oranges and 2 lemons into wedges and add with 1 whole head of garlic, cut in half. Stir in 1 cup (250 mL) each Kosher salt and granulated sugar, 6 thick slices of fresh ginger, 3 bay leaves, 1/2 bunch fresh thyme or 2 tbsp (30 mL) dried thyme leaves, 1 tbsp (15 mL) black peppercorns and 1 tsp (5 mL) chili flakes. Bring to a boil, stirring often, until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add 24 cups (6 L) very cold water. Cool completely. If making ahead, cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Brine the bird
Remove neck and bag of giblets from inside of 12 to 16 lb (6 to 8 kg) turkey (use them for gravy, if you wish.) Place turkey in a pot large enough to hold it when covered with brine and that will fit in your refrigerator. If fridge room is tight, place turkey in a clean cooler. Pour cold brine overtop. Make sure bird is completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If using cooler, place in a cool place such as a cold cellar or garage. To make sure brining temperature stays at 40F (4C) or below, seal a few freezer packs in a plastic bag, then add to brine and replace when necessary to maintain temperature.

3. Cook the bird
Remove turkey from brine and discard brine. Rinse turkey under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels, inside and out. Preheat oven to 325F (160C). In a small bowl, stir 1/4 cup (50 mL) butter with 2 tsp (10 mL) poultry seasoning. For a 12 to 16 lb (6 to 8 kg) turkey you’ll need about 12 cups (3 L) of stuffing. Place turkey, breast side down, in a roasting pan. Fill neck cavity with stuffing. Don’t overpack – stuffing expands as it cooks. Bring neck skin up over back to enclose stuffing. Fasten with skewers or sew shut. Turn breast side up. Add enough stuffing to body cavity to completely fill. Don’t overpack. Fasten with skewers or sew shut. Tuck wing tips under turkey. Tie legs together or tuck under skin flap. Rub half the butter over skin. Turn breast side down in pan. Rub with remaining butter. Cover with a tent of foil. Seal to pan edges. Roast in centre of preheated oven, 2 hours. Remove foil and turn breast side up. Baste with pan juices. Continue to roast, uncovered and basting occasionally with pan juices, until drumstick moves easily in joint and a meat thermometer inserted into thigh reads 180F (80C). This will take 2 to 3 1/4 more hours, about 20 min. per pound (500 g). If turkey is browning too quickly in one area, cover just that area with a piece of foil. Remove roasted turkey to cutting board. Cover loosely with foil. Let stand at least 15 min. before carving.