This salty, aromatic, homemade brine creates the moistest, juicy and delicious brined turkey.
Brined turkey is a huge tradition in America, with many families soaking their meat before the Thanksgiving roast. However, it has never reached the same level of popularity in the UK. It does take a little planning: for instance, you need a pot large enough to submerge your entire bird in.
But fans say the moistness and fragrance it adds to the meat is unbeatable. Although you need to plan in advance, it actually takes very little time to do and makes a lovely Christmas Eve ritual, preparing the meal for the next day’s feasting.
Once you've brined it, you can follow our step-by-step guide on how to cook a turkey!
For the brine:
- 1tbsp juniper berries
- 2tbsp black peppercorns
- 6-8 bay leaves
- 750g carton salt
For the turkey:
- 3.5-4.5kg British turkey
- 1 litre stock, either giblet stock or chicken stock
- 2-3tbsp olive oil
For the stuffing:
- 450-500g packet sausages (de-skinned) or sausagemeat
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 30g breadcrumbs
- 2-3tbsp freshly chopped sage
- Salt and ground black pepper
- To make the brine: Pour 2 litres water into a pan, add the juniper berries, peppercorns and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Add the salt, and stir until it dissolves, then take the pan off the heat. Add 8 litres cold water. Leave the mixture to cool. Place the turkey in a container (made from anything but aluminium) that’s just larger than the bird, then pour over the brine — if the bird isn’t fully immersed, make up some more. Leave for a minimum of 12 hours, preferably 24.
- Set the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5. Rinse and dry the turkey well. Discard the brine.
- To make the stuffing: Mix all ingredients together. Stuff the neck end of the turkey. Any extra stuffing can be shaped into balls.
- Position one oven shelf towards the bottom for the turkey, and the other one towards the top for the potatoes.
- Weigh the stuffed turkey. Allow 20 mins cooking time per kg, plus 90 mins. After the turkey is cooked, leave it to rest for about 30 mins before carving, so add this to the cooking time when working out what time to put it in the oven.
- Place the turkey in a roasting tin and pour in the stock, then drizzle over the oil. Cover with foil and put in the oven. Remove the foil for the last 45-50 mins of cooking. Cook any stuffing balls in the roasting tin with the potatoes for 20-25 mins.
- Test if the turkey is cooked. Insert a skewer into the thickest part of the leg and check if the juice runs clear. If it's still pink continue cooking. If you have a probe thermometer, the temperature in the thickest part of the flesh should be at least 75°C.
- When the juices run clear, remove the turkey from the oven, cover with a sheet of foil, and leave in a warm place for 20-30 mins before serving.
- Strain the juices from the pan, then use to make the gravy. If the juices are very salty, mix them with some water or stock to make gravy.
Top tips for making brined turkey
Before you begin this recipe check your pot is large enough to entirely submerge the turkey. It should not be made of aluminum, as this metal can react with the brine, leaving a metallic taste on the turkey. Ideally, the brining turkey should be left in the fridge, if you have room. Otherwise, leave it with a secure lid in a cool place. If you don't have a pot, a lidded cool box can be a good substitute.
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Octavia Lillywhite is an award-winning food and lifestyle journalist with over 15 years of experience. With a passion for creating beautiful, tasty family meals that don’t use hundreds of ingredients or anything you have to source from obscure websites, she’s a champion of local and seasonal foods, using up leftovers and composting, which, she maintains, is probably the most important thing we all can do to protect the environment.
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