Herb-Brined Turkey


Preparation info

  • Makes


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Thanksgiving: Recipes for a Holiday Meal


By Lou Seibert Pappas

Published 2011

  • About

Brining creates moist, juicy flesh while enhancing flavor. Two points are crucial: choose a container just large enough to hold the turkey during brining and be sure to dissolve the sugar and salt completely.


  • Herb Brine
  • Fresh whole turkey, 1, about 12 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper Canola oil for brushing
  • Yellow onion, 1, quartered
  • Carrots, 3, coarsely chopped
  • Celery stalk, 1, with some leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Pan Gravy or other gravy (optional)
  • Lemons for garnish (optional)
  • Fresh marjoram sprigs for garnish (optional)


    Make the Herb Brine as directed on.

    About 2 hours before brining, remove the turkey from the refrigerator. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey cavity. Reserve the liver for another use or discard. If you like, refrigerate the neck, gizzard, and heart to make stock or Giblet Gravy or discard. Pull out the pale yellow pads of fat in the body cavity on both sides of the tail and discard.

    Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Immerse the turkey completely, breast side down, in the stockpot with the brine. If needed, invert a small plate on top of the turkey to keep it submerged. Alternatively, if using a brining bag, put the turkey in the bag, slowly pour the brine in over it, close the bag (squeezing out the excess air), and place in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate the turkey in the brine for 12–24 hours.

    Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Let the turkey stand at room temperature for about 1 hour before roasting. Fold the wings underneath the back of the turkey to prevent their over-browning in the oven. Season the cavity and skin of the turkey with salt and pepper. Stuff the turkey and truss it if desired.

    Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F.

    Select a flameproof roasting pan just large enough to hold the turkey. (For more information on choosing the pan.) Lightly brush the roasting rack with canola oil and place the turkey on the rack. Place the pan in the oven and roast the turkey, rotating the pan’s position on the oven rack from front to back several times for more even cooking, for 1¾ hours.

    Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pan and continue to roast, stirring the vegetables occasionally, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey thigh away from the bone registers 175°F and into the thickest part of the turkey breast away from the bone, several inches above the wings, registers 165°F, about 1¼ hours longer, for a total roasting time of about 3 hours.

    Remove the turkey from the oven. Insert a sturdy, large, metal spoon into the body cavity, and, supporting the turkey at the neck cavity with a carving fork, tilt it so that the juices in the cavity flow into the roasting pan. Transfer the turkey, breast side up, to a carving board (a cutting board with a groove to capture poultry juices). Let the bird rest for at least 20 minutes and up to 45 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil if needed to keep it warm. This resting period, which allows the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the flesh, is a key element in achieving a juicy turkey.

    If you like, place the roasting pan with the pan juices and vegetables over 2 burners to prepare the Pan Gravy, Giblet Gravy, or Herbed Citrus Gravy.

    Have ready a heated platter to hold the carved turkey. If you have used string to truss the bird, snip it with kitchen scissors and discard it. Carve the turkey and arrange it on the platter, garnishing with the lemon slices and marjoram if desired. Serve the turkey, asking your guests whether they prefer dark meat (from the leg and thigh), white meat (from the breast), or a combination.