Turkey Brining for Roasting

Ingredients

  • approx. 6 litres water
  • 1 large orange or 2 smaller (quartered)
  • 150 grams good quality salt
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tablespoons allspice berries
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 tablespoons white mustard seeds
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 2 onions (unpeeled and quartered)
  • 1 x 6 centimetres piece of fresh root ginger (unpeeled and cut into 6 slices)
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons runny honey
  • stalks from 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 x 5½ kilograms turkey

For the Basting Glaze

  • 75 grams goose fat (or butter)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

Turkey Brining for Roasting

Courtesy of Nigella Lawson

Related articles: Talking Turkey

Related recipe: Turkey Soup

Turkey cooking times tend to seem quite short if you are used to the "standard" formula for calculating cooking times for poultry. However we have all been overcooking turkeys for years and complaining how dry and sawdusty they are. The table below gives my suggested timings for turkey.

The timings in the table are for a free-range (organic!) turkey - these tend to have more fat than a lean mass-produced bird and the marbling of fat in the free-range turkey tends to conduct the heat faster meaning that it cooks more quickly. It also assumes that the turkey has been allowed to come up to room temperature before cooking (take the turkey out of the fridge 1-2 hours before you want to cook it) and that the turkey has no stuffing and is not trussed. If you are stuffing your turkey, then you must weigh the already-stuffed bird, and cook according to the table below.

When the turkey has had its allotted time in the oven check that it is cooked by piercing the turkey with the point of a sharp knife where the meat is thickest, behind the knee joint of the thigh, if the juices that run out are clear then the turkey is cooked. If they are still pink then let the turkey have another 15-20 minutes in the oven and test again.

You can also use an instant-read thermometer to check if the turkey is cooked - this will be at 74ºC/165ºF. When the turkey is ready, remove it from the oven, tent it with foil and let it rest for 30 to 60 minutes, out of a draught. If you are still nervous about turkey timings then we would also suggest that you consider brining your turkey as this will keep the bird moist even after longer cooking times. If you are brining your turkey then do cook your stuffing separately.

We would like to mention that in the US the FDA recommends that turkeys are cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165ºF.?

Turkey cooking times - oven fully preheated to 200ºC/400ºF

Weight of Bird : Cooking Time

2.25kg/5lb : 1 ½ hours 3.5kg/8lb : 1 ¾ hours 4.5kg/10lb : 2 hours 5.5kg/12lb : 2 ½ hours 6.75kg/15lb : 2 ¾ hours 7.5kg/17lb : 3 hours 9kg/20lb : 3 ½ hours 11.5kg/25lb : 4 ½ hours

Method

  1. Put the water into your largest cooking pot or a bucket or plastic bin. Squeeze the juice from the orange quarters into the water before you chuck the husks in, then add all the other ingredients, stirring to combine the salt, sugar, syrup and runny honey.
  2. Remove any string or trussing from the turkey, shake it free, remove the giblets, if not already done, and put them in the fridge (or straightaway set about making the stock for the gravy), then add the bird to the liquid, topping up with more water if it is not completely submerged.
  3. Keep covered in a cold place, even outside overnight or for up to a day or two before you cook it, remembering to take it out of its liquid (and wipe it dry with kitchen paper) 1-2 hours before it has to go into the oven.
  4. Read the Important Note below, and preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/400ºF.
  5. Melt the goose fat (or butter) and maple syrup together slowly over a low heat. Paint the turkey with the glaze before roasting in the oven, and baste periodically throughout the cooking time.
  6. Roast for 2½ hours. When you think it’s ready, pierce the turkey with the point of a sharp knife where the body meets the leg, and if the juices run clear, it’s cooked; if still pink, cook it for longer until they run clear, or use a meat thermometer.
  7. Then take the turkey out of the oven, and let it sit, tented with foil, for 20–40 minutes or even longer if you like, as I do.