Cook's Illustrated Crisped Skin Brined Turkey
I see absolutely no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Cook’s Illustrated magazine put out a fantastic turkey recipe in their November/December issue in 2000 and I have used it every year that I have hosted Thanksgiving (which has been most of the past 10 years). I have reprinted their recipe here with a revised recipe for gravy that is gluten free. Next time you see Cook’s Illustrated magazine be sure to pick up a copy for great ideas and well tested recipes.
The November/December 2000 Thanksgiving Issue
Christopher Kimball the editor/publisher of this magazine and also The Cook’s Bible happened to be at my neighborhood grocery store one day in the kitchen kiosk cooking up samples. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. At the time I was collecting chefs to submit recipes to my book and here was someone I had followed for years through his books and magazines. He was visiting from the east coast and happily contributed a number of recipes such as the Master Recipe for Long Grain White Rice (which is perfect every time) and also Braised Tuna with Ginger and Soy, yum. I also adapted his Chocolate Cake recipe for my book. If you are looking for a gift to help someone learn how to cook, either the magazine or the book are great ideas. The magazine is free of advertising and I keep every issue.
To Brine or not to Brine..and what is it?
A brine is a solution of saltwater that penetrates and seasons the meat throughout, not just the surface of the meat.
Every year I debate whether I should brine my turkey because, quite frankly, it is a hassle. But every year I do it and am very glad to have taken the extra time.
The added bonus
discovered in this recipe is the overnight rest in the refrigerator once the turkey is brined, removed from the solution, rinsed and dried. The overnight rest allows any moisture in the skin to evaporate which creates a crisp skin. Bridget Lancaster discovered this quite by accident when she was testing recipes for Cook’s Illustrated.
The very first year I used this recipe my mother-in-law (the talented artist of the watercolors in my book Cooking Gluten-Free!) and I cooked together at her house. The trick has always been finding the best arrangement for holding the turkey plus two gallons of water and to keep it cold enough for the 4-6 hour brine (we have also brined overnight). Once you get a big bird in two gallons of water —it is heavy so you need solid racks in your refrigerator. Actually you really need to have an extra refrigerator or a good sized cooler.
That first year we had trouble finding the right container. By the time we got around to reading the recipe it was late since we had taken a ferry to reach her house in the San Juan Islands, and of course by then all the stores on the island were long closed. We talked about using an old trash can –carefully washing it first of course –but we just couldn’t wrap our minds around eating a turkey that was in an old, used trash can all night. Now, I can’t even remember what we used but it worked and the turkey was so good we were hooked.
The next year or two after that my brother-in-law and his wife hosted Thanksgiving and wanted to try brining the turkey but somewhere along the way between caring for young children and trying to pull it all together they forgot to completely rinse the turkey inside and out once they removed it from the brine. It was salty. It was a “break your heart” salty because they worked so hard to put that dinner on and there was just no denying that it was salty! I guarantee you that every turkey they have made since then has been perfect, after a lesson like that, you learn.
The Brining Container
My best suggestion is to be prepared with a clean plastic bucket and a big, insulated cooler that you can keep at 40 degrees (if you don’t have the refrigerator space). We put ours outside on the deck with ice, the bucket filled with turkey, water and salt and something heavy on top of the cooler so animals can’t get into it. We find it stays cold enough. Big, food-safe, leak proof, plastic bags are also good to have around if your bucket is too small. Put the turkey in the bag with the water and salt, tie it up, and put it in the cooler.
We have roasted the brined turkey in the oven as this recipe suggests and we have also cooked it on the barbeque (charcoal only please) with fantastic results.
Roast Crisped-Skin Turkey
You may halve the amount of salt in the brine and brine for 12 hours or overnight.
Recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, November/December 2000
1 turkey (12-14 pounds)
4 cups kosher salt or 2 cups table salt
3 medium onions, chopped coarse
2 small carrots, chopped coarse
2 celery ribs, chopped coarse
6 sprigs fresh thyme
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavity and reserve for gravy. Rinse turkey thoroughly, inside and out. Dissolve salt in 2 gallons cold water in large stock pot or clean bucket. Add turkey and refrigerate or set in a cool spot (4o degrees F.) for 4-6 hours.
Remove turkey from salt water and rinse well, inside and out, under cool running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Place turkey breast-side up on flat wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours.
Adjust oven rack to lowest level and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss one-third of onions, carrots, and celery with 2 sprigs of thyme and 1 tablespoon butter in medium bowl: fill cavity with mixture. Tuck wings behind back; using a five foot length of kitchen twine truss the turkey by tying the legs together and running the twine around the thighs and under the wings to tie tightly at the neck of the bird. Snip off excess twine.
Scatter remaining vegetables and thyme in shallow roasting pan; pour 1 cup water over vegetables. Set a V-rack in roasting pan, cover v-rack with foil and spray with cooking spray. Vent the foil with a few slits. Brush turkey breast with butter then set turkey breast-side down on foil-lined v-rack. brush back of turkey with butter. Roast 45 minutes.
Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven; brush back with butter. Using thick wads of paper towels or potholders, rotate turkey leg/wing side up. If liquid in bottom of roasting pan has evaporated, add 1/2 cup water. Roast 15 minutes.
Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven, brush exposed surfaces with butter and using potholders rotate turkey second leg/wing side up. Roast for 15 minutes.
Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven, brush exposed surfaces with butter and using potholders rotate turkey breast side up. Roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees and thickest part of thigh is 170-175 on instant-read thermometer, 30-45 minutes longer.
Move turkey from rack to carving board and let rest 20-30 minutes.
Carve and serve with gravy.
Gluten Free Giblet Pan Gravy
This recipe has been adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated original to make it gluten free. I ommitted a few things that you might like such as using wine to deglaze the pan and adding the cooked reserved giblets into the final gravy. Original recipe is posted at Cook’s Illustrated.
makes about 6 cups
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
reserved turkey giblets and neck
1 onion, unpeeled and chopped
6 cups turkey or chicken stock or 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth plus 2 cups water
2 sprigs fresh thyme
8 parsley stems
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking; add giblets and neck, saute until golden about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until turkey parts and onion release their juices, about 20 minutes. Add stock and herbs; increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, skimming any scum that rises to the surface. Simmer 30 minutes until broth is rich and flavorful. Strain and allow broth to cool if you plan to refrigerate it, you should have about 5 cups. Refrigerate cooled broth until ready to use. This step may be done a day in advance.
While turkey is roasting, bring reserved broth to simmer in medium saucepan. Heat butter in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat; when foam subsides, vigorously whisk in flour to make a roux. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until nutty brown and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes. Vigorously whisk all but 1 cup hot broth into roux. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and flavorful, about 30 miuntes longer. Set aside until turkey is done.
While turkey is resting on carving board, spoon out and discard as much fat as possible from roasting pan, leaving behind caramelized herbs and vegetables. Place roasting pan over two burners at medium-high heat (if drippings are not dark brown, cook, stirring constantly, until they caramelize). Return gravy in saucepan to simmer over medium heat. Add remaining 1 cup broth to roasting pan and scrape up browned bits clinging to bottom of pan; then strain mixture into gravy, pressing on solids in strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. adjust seasonings with salt and pepper; serve with turkey.