Becky Luigart-Stayner; Melanie J. Clarke
12 servings (serving size: 6 ounces turkey and 3 tablespoons gravy)

This turkey is a pleasure to offer on your table. It's incredibly moist and flavorful, and it received our highest Test Kitchens rating. Brining is an overnight process, so if you're using a frozen turkey, be sure to thaw it well in advance. Choose turkey-sized plastic oven bags for brining the turkey. Use two bags to prevent brine from leaking, and place the turkey in a large stockpot as another precaution. This recipe goes with Savory Herb Gravy.

How to Make It

Step 1

To prepare brine, combine first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.

Step 2

Remove giblets and neck from turkey; reserve for Savory Herb Gravy. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Stuff body cavity with orange quarters. Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a second bag to form a double thickness. Place bags in a large stockpot. Place turkey inside inner bag. Add cider mixture and ice. Secure bags with several twist ties. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Step 3

Preheat oven to 500º.

Step 4

Remove turkey from bags, and discard brine, orange quarters, and bags. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Place garlic, sage, thyme, parsley, onion, and broth in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place roasting rack in pan. Arrange turkey, breast side down, on roasting rack. Brush turkey back with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 500º for 30 minutes.

Step 5

Reduce oven temperature to 350º.

Step 6

Remove turkey from oven. Carefully turn turkey over (breast side up) using tongs. Brush turkey breast with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 350º for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 170º (make sure not to touch bone). (Shield the turkey with foil if it browns too quickly.) Remove turkey from oven; let stand 20 minutes. Reserve pan drippings for Savory Herb Gravy. Discard skin before serving; serve with gravy.

Step 7

Note: Nutritional analysis includes Savory Herb Gravy.

Ratings & Reviews

KellyHenline's Review

November 25, 2014
This is the recipe I use every year and everyone loves it! I am a firm believer of flipping the bird - cooking the bottom at 450 is plenty hot enough. Usually have to tent with foil the last half hour or so. Brining seems to help it cook a little quicker also so check the temp so you don't over cook it. Will continue to use this every year! Also make the gravy!

Mayebe's Review

November 29, 2013
First turkey I ever cooked and it was great! I used 20 lb turkey, same brine volume.

goodrel8's Review

November 20, 2011
I've been making this every Christmas and Thanksgiving since 2004. My November 2004 Cooking Light is one of my prized possessions due to this recipe, the sausage stuffing in the same issue, and oh my my, the gravy. I have four (now) grown sons who lamment, "I only eat gravy twice a year, mom, please make enough for leftovers". The method is so, so quick. My mom was very skeptical until one nephew proclaimed it was the best turkey he'd ever had. This meant, of course, it was better than my moms. Yikes. Family crisis averted due her mastery of my great-grandma's croissant recipe (from Sunset, probably in the 40s) and his subsequent recovery to rave over them. Really, stop looking. There is no better way to make a turkey anywhere. I'm attempting it with a much larger bird this year after finding an appropriately sized stock pot (OK, extra large canner) and bribing fridge space from someone. This is because we haven't had leftovers the last two holidays. Yup, that good.

socorro411's Review

February 08, 2013
I've made this twice and both times very pleased. I was a bit hesitant this Thanksgiving that my 18# bird would be done but calculated the extra time needed for the increased weight and it was completely done and VERY moist. I will never do a turkey any other way again!

donnaleea's Review

November 20, 2010
The turkey definitely does not taste like apples (answering another reader) but it was amazing and the gravy was incredible!! With the cranberry and fig recipe and the gravy, I really didn't taste a big difference with the turkey, not sure it really made a difference and worth the brining. But I am going to do it again this year! Can't just bear the thought of a plain turkey....

Angelos's Review

November 11, 2009
I have used this recipe for my Thanksgiving turkey every year since I first saw this recipe in Cooking Light. This brine makes a turkey really taste good and is very moist. All of my guests have loved my turkeys and I am asked to bring the turkey for all of the turkey dinners with our friends. Even the left overs taste good and remain moist. Thanks Cooking Light for making my holiday cooking such a success.

paulrust66's Review

November 26, 2013
I have made this five times and it is always outstanding. I use a different gravy but the brining recipe is fantastic and it produces an amazingly moist turkey. I have found that starting it at 450 instead of 500 degrees eliminates the risk of blackening the skin while producing a nice sealed and browned skin.

cagrah10's Review

December 29, 2010
Highly recommend. I have been trying different brining recipes for several years and will stop looking with this one - it was incredibly moist and tasty! I was actually worried that it had not cooked enough when I first sliced it because it was so juicy. I will say, be carefule and keep and eye on the cooking during the 500 degree step - the sugar makes the skin brown very quickly and it almost burned. Everyone raved at how good it was.

mommyDeborah's Review

December 01, 2008
I make a turkey with this brine every year. The skin gets dark from the cider (i assume) and it can be discouraging, but turkey still comes out great every time. It is a favorite and it will be a while before we try something else.

e1160k's Review

November 18, 2010
haven't made this, but read through the recipe to see if i want to. how can this cook in 2 hours? is it because of the brine?