I have been brining my bird for over 10 years and I will never go back. It's almost a foolproof guarantee your bird won't be dry even if you get a little too tipsy and accidentally over cook it. It happens to the best of us, especially when relatives are involved.
I have been modifying a Chez Panisse recipe for years and well I think this is excellent, so does everyone else. Well I hope so anyway, they all say it's the best and well, it won a turkey throwdown. I thinks it's amazing and I am pretty picky. The leftovers are even better the next day... if there are any.
You need to get crackin' because your bird needs 5 days average to thaw in the fridge first. Mine was 19 lbs on the package BUT there are almost a full pound of innards to take into account. I weighed them at 13 oz's on my bird that I did on Saturday for a friends Thanksgiving party. So really it's an 18 lb bird because I usually rip out that neck chunk that dangles too. So I brine my bird 24 hours in advance MINIMUM and sometimes 2 days, this year it was more like a day and a half.
Get yourself a home depot bucket and some non scented, non recyclable kitchen trash bags and a drip pan. I got the generic vons/safeway bags for $1 a box. Make sure they are not scented or treated with antibacterials or chemicals.
2 1/2 gallons cold water
2 cups Kosher Salt
1 cup Organic Raw Fair Trade Sugar
3-4 Bay leaves, torn up
1 bunch/package fresh Thyme
2 bunches/packages of fresh Rosemary
1 large head Garlic peeled & cloves bashed w/knife
2 Tbsp of crushed or minced jarred Garlic
1/2 tsp whole Allspice Berries (crushed)
1/2 tsp Juniper Berries (crushed)
The organic sugar does NOT dissolve like regular sugar so add a few cups of the water to the sugar in a pot with the crushed cloves of garlic, crushed berries, and 1 package of the rosemary, bring to boil until sugar dissolves. Off heat and let cool. This process also helps infuse the garlic & rosemary into the bird.
While it's cooling, rinse your bird well. Remove all plastic stuff and innards sacks etc. Set aside to dry.
Line the bucket with 2 trash sacks and clear out room in your fridge for the bucket to fit. I had to remove a shelf. I have a rubbermaid 2 quart measurement pitcher that I use for the water. This is VERY handy you will need 5 pitchers of water to equal the 2 1/2 gallons. I dissolve the salt in a pitcher of the water. There is room to add salt, just stir to dissolve. Pour into trash bags in bucket. Add all the other ingredients and stir. Plop that turkey in and tie it closed. Now put on your man hands and carry that sucker to the fridge, it's not light, bend at the knee ok. You can do it ladies! The worst part is dumping the water after.
After it has brined for 24-48 hours rinse well before cooking. Pat dry and salt and pepper the cavity with about 1- 2 tablespoons of each. Stuff butter under the skin and season the skin with garlic powder and pepper. The skin never really tastes good unless you fry it so you can probably skip that part in it's entirety because really you wash off all seasoning when you baste.
I like to grill mine and smoke with cherry wood chips. Be sure and start soaking those chips in water before you rinse and dry the bird. Any chips will work, mesquite is good too. By the time you are done prepping it the chips should be ready. You can't over soak chips (I think).
The oven is fine too at 400 (except no smoking it). I thresh the legs and tuck the wings back. Slap that on a rack. Cover the breast or legs with foil if they brown too much. You will also need to put broth/beer/wine in a drip pan or the bottom of the roasting pan for moisture under the turkey. I had to make one out of heavy duty foil for this particular grill.
Either method you need to baste it every 1/2 hour with broth, wine, or beer and cook until a thermometer inserted in the THIGH, not breast and not touching any bone reaches 165.
My grilled 18 lb bird took 3 hours this year. It is usually 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours even if the bird is a little bigger. If you are at 3 and 1/2 hours something is wrong with your heat or thermometer or you are inserting the thermometor wrong. You may be overcooking it. 4 hours is doing it wrong unless you have a 23+ lb bird. It's more like 2 hours for a smaller bird.
I assume you guys know what to do with the smoke chips? I didn't. My ex used to do the BBQin with a Weber charcoal grill. I used a gas grill and made foil packets and placed them around. Then I thought that wasn't working because, well I was drunk and I didn't see a lot of smoke. I eventually just threw them all over when I basted. Whatever I did worked it had a nice smokey flavor.
It will need to rest a half hour is perfect before carving. It is still cooking when you remove it so resist the temptation to pick at it, capiche? Whatever you do don't leave this resting around any animals especially those jerk dogs, you have seen a Christmas Story right?
Please note the beauty of this brine is that it is to your taste. You can add or subtract ingredients to your liking. Brining is the salt & sugar technique (which you must follow) which draws flavors you add into the bird.
If you can't find an ingredient don't stress, it's fine skip it. If you have something you want to add like apple, peppercorns etc...GO FOR IT
Happy Thanksgiving peeps!