Brine-Cured Roast Turkey

Brine-Cured Roast Turkey

6 Reviews
From: EatingWell Magazine, November/December 2009

A big turkey is so spectacular you hardly need to do anything to embellish it. But brining can be that extra touch that makes it so juicy and flavorful that you'll remember it for years to come. Brining the turkey takes 3 days so you'll need to plan ahead, but the lengthy brining time really pays off with fabulous flavor. Make sure you start with an all-natural bird without any added water and sodium solution. Recipe adapted from Alice Waters.

Ingredients 10 servings

for serving adjustment
Serving size has been adjusted!
Original recipe yields 10 servings
Nutrition per serving may change if servings are adjusted.
  • 3 gallons water, divided
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 leeks, dark tops trimmed off, chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 4 star anise
  • 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 12- to 14-pound naturally fed, free-range turkey
  • 1 large sprig rosemary for basting
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for basting


  • Active

  • Ready In

  1. Bring 1 gallon water to a boil in a large nonreactive pot that will hold your turkey and fit in your refrigerator (see Tip). Stir in sugar and salt until completely dissolved. Turn off the heat. Stir in carrots, onions, leeks, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander, crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, star anise and thyme. Add the remaining 2 gallons water. Place the turkey in the brine and weight it with a plate, if necessary, so it stays below the surface. Refrigerate for 72 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. Remove the turkey from the brine, brush off any briny bits and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (discard the brine). Tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Place the turkey on a roasting rack set in a large roasting pan.
  4. Roast the turkey until the skin starts to brown, about 40 minutes. Use rosemary sprig to baste the turkey with oil. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting the turkey, basting with more oil about every 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh without touching bone registers 165°F, 1 to 1½ hours more, depending on the size of the turkey. If the skin begins to darken too much, cover it loosely with foil.
  5. Carefully transfer the turkey to a large, clean cutting board; let it rest, loosely covered with foil, for 20 minutes before removing the string and carving.
  • Make Ahead Tip: Pot, bucket or clean cooler large enough to hold the turkey (but small enough to fit in your refrigerator), kitchen string
  • Kitchen Tip: If you do not have a pot large enough to hold the turkey plus the 3 gallons of brining liquid, bring 1 gallon of water to a boil in a smaller pot, add the flavorings (Step 1), then transfer the brine to a clean large bucket or medium cooler (small enough to fit in your refrigerator). Add the remaining 2 gallons water and the turkey. To fit the brining turkey into your refrigerator, you may need to remove a shelf or two.

Nutrition information

  • Serving size: 3 ounces
  • Per serving: 137 calories; 3 g fat(1 g sat); 0 g fiber; 0 g carbohydrates; 25 g protein; 8 mcg folate; 88 mg cholesterol; 0 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 12 IU vitamin A; 0 mg vitamin C; 11 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 122 mg sodium; 203 mg potassium
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 0
  • Exchanges: 3½ lean meat

Reviews 6

November 23, 2010
profile image
By: EatingWell User
Was the best turkey we ever had. Now just need to figure out how to do a bigger turkey. I'm thinking 1 1/2 recipe, so it's enough to keep the bird submerged.
December 21, 2009
profile image
By: EatingWell User
Awesome! The fennel and the anise flavor are especially good in the dark meat, and the whole bird was great and flavorful. I'm off to the farm to pick up another big turkey to brine for a Christmas Eve feast!
November 29, 2009
profile image
By: EatingWell User
Me again -- meanwhile I've forgotten what I did about the gravy. Probably leftover hard cider and a few herbs that were already cut for some reason. But... I decided not to use the recipe for Thanksgiving. The test bird had an almost floral flavor, which might be described as 'lovely', and was certainly out of the ordinary. However it was not as savory as what I expect from my previously brined birds. So I did the same old salt brine again. If I get more time to work on this I will play with the sugar and salt quantities to see if the EW one can be tweaked to be a little less sweet.
November 27, 2009
profile image
By: rslubguban
This was the best tasting turkey I've ever eaten! It was the first time purchasing a fresh, organic turkey as well, but extremely moist and flavorful!
November 27, 2009
profile image
By: setrower
I just finished serving Thanksgiving dinner to all of my family: 18 in all. Everyone had heard about how great brined turkey was, but no one had every actually tried it. All the meat-eaters in my family absolutely loved the brined turkey that I made. The vegetarians (including me!) dined on two vegetarian entrees, one of which was Roasted Vegetable Galette with Olives (another Eating Well recipe.)
November 06, 2009
profile image
By: EatingWell User
I have a chicken in the oven right now, testing this recipe for a possible Thanksgiving meal. And I just noticed there is no accompanying gravy! So far the bird has a distinctive smell from the star anise and fennel, so I'm doubtful of the recipes here which match the other preparation methods (apples and shallots, yum!). I would like to know what Alice Waters suggests. Possibly no additional herbs, but what to deglaze with? I am giving this recipe a middling rating for now but will post again after we've actually tasted the results.
More Reviews