Brining a turkey is well worth the day-ahead time investment. It removes all guesswork, producing an incredibly moist bird that's more forgiving of being slightly overcooked. If you can't find an organic turkey, look for a fresh one without "added solution."
1 gallon plus 2 cups water, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
6 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
1 (12-pound) organic fresh turkey
10 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 sage leaves
2 celery stalks, quartered and divided
2 large carrots, quartered and divided
1 large white onion, quartered and divided
1 large Fuji apple, quartered and divided
1 lemon, quartered and divided
2 cups water
2 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
How to Make It
To prepare brine, combine 2 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, and next 4 ingredients (through bay leaves) in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until salt dissolves. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Add sugar mixture and remaining 1 gallon water to a brining bag.
Remove giblets and neck from turkey; reserve neck. Trim excess fat; add turkey to brining bag. Seal bag; refrigerate 18 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.
Preheat oven to 500°.
Remove turkey from brine; discard brine. Pat turkey dry. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Place parsley, 2 sage leaves, 3 celery pieces, 3 carrot pieces, 1 onion quarter, 2 apple quarters, and 2 lemon wedges in body cavity. Secure legs with twine. Place turkey on the rack of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Place turkey neck and remaining celery, carrot, onion, apple, and lemon in bottom of roasting pan; place rack with turkey in pan.
Bake at 500° for 45 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° (do not remove turkey from oven). Place a foil tent over turkey breast. Pour 2 cups water in bottom of pan. Bake turkey at 350° for 45 minutes. Combine 1 1/2 cups stock and butter. Rotate turkey, and baste with 1/2 cup stock mixture. Bake 30 minutes; rotate turkey and baste with 1/2 cup stock mixture. Bake an additional 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 160°. Remove from oven; place turkey on a cutting board. Baste with remaining 1/2 cup stock mixture. Let stand, covered, for at least 30 minutes; discard neck and skin.
Combine remaining 1/2 cup stock and flour, stirring with a whisk. Pour pan drippings through a sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Add flour mixture to drippings, stirring with a whisk. Place mixture in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until mixture thickens. Stir in ground pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve gravy with turkey.
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I partially burned the outside of the turkey following these directions, but the inside was perfectly cooked--tender and moist (except the leg was a bit too done). I made a note to make sure the turkey is on the bottom rack (it was on the second rack and too close to the heating element at first), and to check it after a few minutes. I would also consider using a lower temp than 500 as the other reviewer suggested.
NOT FOOLPROOF! Following this recipe burned my turkey within 15 minutes of putting it in the oven. That makes sense considering all the other turkey recipes I've followed or read requires you to roast the turkey at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. This recipe calls for roasting at 500 degrees for 45 minutes which will result in a blackened turkey. I rated this two stars because it does have potential, if you just roast it at 400 degrees and follow the rest of the instructions it is a solid recipe.
Fortunately I saw my turkey was burning after 15 minutes of being in the oven and I pulled it out, basted it with butter and chicken broth, covered it in foil and cooked it for the remainder of the time at 350 degrees. It did come out slightly dry.
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