Brined turkey is an absolute must have for Christmas in my book. Turkey has such a bad reputation for being dry, tasteless and frankly, a bit of a let-down. But if you use my brined turkey recipe I promise you it’ll be juicy, delicious and ever so lightly spiced. The salt solution (brine) works its way into the turkey meat, making it swell and retain moisture without making it taste like seawater. The sugars in the brine even result in a picture book style deep brown glossy skin. And unlike some heavily spiced brines, this one suits 90 year old Nanna as well as 2 year old Laurie and everyone in between. There’s a hint of orange, a little waft of star anise, but nothing that knocks your socks off. You can of course increase all the brine flavourings if you wish; you know your audience.
Planning what we’re eating on Christmas Day makes me feel less stressed about all the preparation. I write a menu, then a list for the groceries, then a list for the prep. Yes, I even write a time line. I know that could sound like overkill to some people but it makes me enjoy the day more when I know what needs doing. Brined turkey is already written on the menu along with three types of potato. (I know, carbohydrate overload!)
One thing that has traditionally caused me some angst is knowing when the meat is ready. I always worry about making sure it’s cooked through, despite piercing the thickest part of the turkey to check the juices run clear. The last thing anyone wants at any time of year is food poisoning, but especially on Christmas Day! My Thermapen ensures I know the turkey is cooked to perfection and won’t make anyone poorly, whilst my brining method makes for the juiciest turkey you’ll ever taste.
I’ve had a Thermapen for a few years now. I first got into using one after the Great British Bake Off, when I found they were invaluable for checking the temperature of bread, cakes, caramel and jam. Where I find I use it most these days though is with meat. The first time you open the British made Thermapen box it feels a little like magic, for as soon as you open the probe it takes a reading. Given you are either holding the probe, or simply exposing it to the air, you’ll see a reading of how warm your hands are or the temperature of your kitchen.
When you push the probe into meat/bread/jam etc it takes just 3 seconds to take an accurate reading and then lucky for me (with my mind like a sieve), the sensor is activated by motion, so you don’t have to remember to turn it off and risk running down the battery. It’s easy to use; can be used in either hand and in any position, plus the display is backlit so if you’re someone who likes the odd evening barbecue in the summer (or winter!) you can still easily test your meat is cooked to perfection.
Lots of great recipes like this in my books, Recipes from a Normal Mum, (available on Amazon, at The Works, Waterstones, WHSmith, The Book Depository and many smaller outlets) and The Power of Frozen (available through Amazon).
Prep Time: 24 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Yield: 6 - 8
- 5 litres cold water
- 1 orange, halved
- 5 cloves
- 1 whole nutmeg
- 1 tbsp red peppercorns
- 1 tbsp green peppercorns
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 180g salt
- 90g brown sugar
- 130g honey
- 1 onion, halved
- 1 whole bulb of garlic, halved
- 2 bay leaves
- 2.4kg turkey
- 75g softened salted butter
Make the brine by mixing all the ingredients together (apart from the turkey and butter) in a large stock pot and bringing to the boil. Leave to cool completely. Add the turkey to the brine, being sure to submerge it completely, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Be careful that the raw turkey or brine does not come into contact with anything else in the fridge. Try and store at the bottom of the fridge in case of any dripping. (If your turkey is larger than 2.4kg simply scale the recipe up and use a large clean bucket or plastic storage box to brine the turkey in. Leave to brine for 24 hours in a cold place such as the garage if it doesn’t fit in the fridge). Remove the turkey from the brine and place on a roasting tray. Leave to come to room temperature for 30 minutes. In the meantime preheat your oven to 190C/180C fan/gas mark 5 and make a small incision at the top of the turkey breast, then push the butter down between the skin and the meat. Wrap the protruding bones and wings in foil to stop them from burning and cover the top of the turkey in foil. Roast for 20 minutes per kilo, plus 90 minutes. So for a 2.4kg turkey the roast time is about 2 hours 20 minutes. Baste with the turkey juices every half an hour or so. Thirty minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil from the turkey to ensure it has a really brown skin. Use a Thermapen to test the thickest part of the turkey – the area between the leg and the thigh. It’s done when it is 74C or above. If it’s at a lower temperature put the turkey back into the oven for another 10 minutes and check again. Once the turkey is at the correct temperature, remove from the oven, cover well with foil and leave to rest for an hour. This resting period allows the meat to relax and the juices to be reabsorbed into the fibres meaning the turkey is juicier and tastier. It also makes carving easier. Use the resting time to get everything else ready for Christmas dinner! Have a wonderful day and I hope Father Christmas brings you what you asked for!
This post was supported by Thermapen.
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