All recipes on HHM are Twinkle's personal recipes, unless otherwise noted.
I have always had nightmares about cooking a huge turkey for the holidays.
And from what I can tell, most folks have this same fear. The fear we will all open the oven, pull out the beautiful turkey and poof, it’s Christmas Vacation all over again.
Fortunately, this turkey recipe can keep you from those forced compliments or a harried trip to the store for a replacement turkey dinner.
Or even better, choose to roast chickens instead. Brining and cook time is much faster, and everyone at the table can get the piece of the bird they love the most.
I really believe in brining when it comes to poultry. For turkey, especially if it is going to be 15 to 20 lbs., a 12-24 hour spiced brine is the way to go.
Most of us do not have a refrigerator large enough to brine a big ol’ bird, much less a walk-in cooler. But a 10-gallon cooler will do the trick. We have a cooler specifically designated for turkey or bird-brining, that way you won’t have any other smells
Brining your bird:
First, thaw your turkey. (See handy-dandy infograph at the bottom)
You can also thaw and brine at the same time using the water thawing method, which I highly recommend and is a good time-saver.
Sweet Orange & Olive Oil Turkey (With instructions for Roasting Hens)
Makes 20-25 servings
Brining time: 12- 24 hours
5 gallons vegetable stock
½ cup of peppercorns
¼ cup whole cloves
5-6 bay leaves
1 cup sea salt
2 bunches of fresh sage
1 cup of candied ginger
Whole head of garlic peeled and chopped
Lots of ice
Cook your veggie stock down for several hours. You might have to do this in batches since it is a major amount. If you don’t save veggie scraps for stock, then you’ll need 3-4 onions chopped, one bunch of celery, some garlic cloves and about 3-4 carrots roughly chopped.
Peels, ends and everything go in the pot. Cook down, then drain liquid into a pot and toss the cooked down veggies.
After your stock is ready, place all the other ingredients into the stock and cook down on medium for about 30 minutes.
While your brine is cooking, take some time to clean your turkey. You’ll want to prepare an area around the sink to keep juices from getting on everything. My grandmother taught me a great trick of lining the cabinets with plastic wrap or foil to reduce the chance for bacteria to splash on your cabinets and counters. Then you can just toss those away during clean-up.
Remove the turkey’s wrapper and rinse, removing anything on the inside – neck, liver, heart, etc. If you want to use these, set aside for later, but they do not need to be inside the turkey cavity during thawing/brining.
Once rinsed, place the turkey inside the 10 gallon cooler, cover with ice and replace the lid.
When your stock has finished cooking down, let it cool completely, then pour it into the cooler over the turkey. If it doesn’t cover it completely, add cool water until the bird is fully covered with liquid. Add more ice and replace the lid.
Let turkey brine at least 12-24 hours.
You’ll need to keep checking and adding ice to keep it at a cool 35-40 degrees. Once it’s brined, then it’s time to cook!
Cooking the turkey
Instead of the butter bath that a lot of recipes call for, I cut the usual 4-5 sticks down to one and substitute ½ cup of olive oil for basting. Brining my turkey ensured a good probability that it would be moist, and although I truly love butter, the olive oil adds a richer, more complex flavor to the end result.
Cooking time: 3-3½ hours
15-20 lb. brined, thawed turkey
1 stick of butter, melted
½ cup of olive oil
½ cup honey
¼ cup of dried thyme or ½ cup chopped fresh thyme
1 tbs. sea salt
1 tbs. fresh ground black pepper
Zest of a large orange
1 orange diced into chunks
Once you are ready to cook, adjust the middle rack to the lowest rung and preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. You are going to crisp up this turkey quick for about 30 minutes or so.
While the oven is heating, remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry and then place in your cooking pan.
Stuff the turkey cavity with you the stuffing of your choice (stuffing helps retain moisture) and push the orange chunks up inside the turkey and into the stuffing.
Mix the butter, olive oil, honey, zest and spices together and brush a heavy layer onto the entire turkey.
Place into your heated oven for 30 minutes.
At 30 minutes, turn down the heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Let cook for 3-3½ hours, basting with your olive oil mixture every 30-45 minutes.
Once the third hour has hit, start testing the temperature. The temperature must reach 180°F in the thigh of a whole turkey (center of the stuffing should reach 165°F) before removing it from the oven.
Your bird should by now be a beautiful golden brown, crackling and driving all the guests to salivate with delicious smells.
Remove from the heat and let rest for 30 minutes.
Carve and serve!
NOTE: You can use this same method for a 5-6 lb. roasting chicken by cutting the brine recipe in half and brining chickens in a Ziploc bag over night in the refrigerator or using a smaller cooler.
For our friends and family potluck, I cooked two 6 lb. chickens and brined them in a small cooler overnight using the recipe above, leaving out the stuffing step (but you can stuff them if you like.)
Cooking directions: Roast the chickens for 1 - 1 ½ hours. Baste with the olive oil honey herb mixture every 30 minutes. Remove from the oven when a meat thermometer in the chicken thigh reads 165°F and juices run clear. Let rest 10 minutes and serve.