Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving and the Perfect, No Fuss Turkey

This posting is a day early but I figured you may want the info BEFORE you cook that dry turkey!

First off, Happy Thanksgiving!  I have SO MUCH to be thankful for this year.  We have our health and each other which is the main thing.  Everything else is just a bonus.  A fantastic, wonderful, bonus.

Our biggest decision every Thanksgiving is whether to brine or not to brine.  I like to brine my turkey but my husband does not.  Honestly, it probably doesn't matter but I do like the little bit of additional flavor the brine gives to the turkey.

This year we will brine.

The day before (NOW) get out a clean bucket or cooler.  We have used a clean cooler in the past but this past year a great little sub sandwich place opened up in town and they sell their used pickle buckets for $2 apiece.  These babies are perfect for the brine!

Combine this into a big pot:

1 gallon of vegetable broth (see my recipe)
1 cup salt
1 T dried rosemary
1 T dried sage
1 T dried thyme
1 T dried savory

Boil until salt dissolves. 

Dump a big bag of ice into your bucket and pour the cooled brine over the top.  Add enough cold water to this to cover your turkey.

Rinse your turkey and pull the innards out.

Put your turkey into this brine overnight.  You should store the bucket in the fridge so your turkey doesn't get icky.  I don't have a big enough fridge so the bucket goes into a cooler which is filled with ice.  I will check it often. . . I don't want to grow anything nasty in my turkey.   I'm not saying this is the right way to do it. . . it's the WRONG way to do it. . . so put yours in the fridge.

In the morning, pull your turkey out and let the brine drain off.  Discard the excess brine.

Time to cook it!

Drum roll, please!  This is the way we've done it for YEARS and it works FABULOUS!!!

Put your turkey into the crock pot.  Yes, the crock pot.

Put it in breast side up.

If you can't get the lid on, make a lid with tin foil.  Make sure it seals as well as the lid would.  I use heavy duty foil but you could use several layers of regular foil.

Cook on high for about five hours.  DO use a thermometer to keep track of your turkey's doneness.  Don't eat it if the turkey isn't done!!!  

I will usually toss an apple into the cavity.  I have in my head that this is helpful in keeping the turkey moist.  I'm not sure if it does or not.

Obviously you can't do a twenty pound turkey this way.  Butterball folks say don't go above 9 1/2 pounds.  Listen to them.  I do a thirteen pound turkey every year but I have the Dugger Sized Crockpot.  Butterball still says don't do it. 


  1. Nice post! Happy Thanksgiving to you and family!

    I decided to brine this year (never did before, but for chicken breasts).

    Stater Bros. has a fabulous sale on Butterball turkeys for 77 cents a pound if you buy $30 in groceries. I have a 13 pound BB and can't WAIT to eat it.

    Brining a Butterball leads to a LOT of chatter. (BB turkeys have butter/brine injected into the turkey muscle so brining a long time will make the bird VERY salty).

    Recommended brining times as I can see is from 18 hours to up to three days (whoa!). Those who love to brine and want the BB too have concurred that ~6 hours of brining, a REAL good cold water rinse and drying the skin of the turkey real well will give delicious taste, not too salty and make the skin very crispy. My mouth waters just to talk about it.

    I've also read that cooking the first 30 minutes at 500 degrees (F) then turning the heat down to 350 is a good way to get that skin crunch good, too. Plus, turning the bird breast side down is great allows the juices to run into the white meat...last.

    I'll let you know how this turns out!

    Again...happy Thanksgiving. Thanks so much for such wonderful household and craftsy tips!

  2. I wanted to let you know how the brining turned out on a Butterball was FABULOUS!

    I got the recipe from

    I completely thawed a 13.5 pound turkey and rinsed and 'detailed' it, removing the tail. For lack of a clean cooler, I took a new trash can liner bag and filled it with a two-gallon brine solution.* The turkey was dunked and rolled round in the brine, then I closed the bag, pushing out as much air as I could.

    It went into a bucket in the frige and after 7 hours, I emptied the brine and re-wrapped the turkey until cooking time (~2 hours later) keeping it on ice the whole time.

    I thoroughly patted the skin dry all 'round and placed the bird (unstuffed) on a rack, breast down, and cooked it at 450 degrees (F) for 30 minutes. Then I turned the heat down to 325 degrees until the meat thermometer read 175 (180 is good too). For the last hour, I rolled the turkey over to brown the breast, but if I did it again, I'd just leave it. Those juices in the white meat are SO worth skipping the photo-finish look of a brown bird.

    Can't say enough about the wonderful taste and texture. Plates got cleaned and guests now believe I'm a GREAT cook!

    *Brine - some notes:
    1. With Butterball, only use 1 cup of kosher salt (NOT table salt, because that is much finer). There is brine in the flesh and butter under the skin of a Butterball, so there's lots of salt in it already.
    2. Heat the water to dissolve the salt and to blend the flavors of the other brine ingredients:

    3 tablespoons minced garlic

    1 tablespoon ground black pepper

    1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

    1/3 cup brown sugar

    Add enough very cold water to the warm brine solution to make 2 gallons and put this in the refrigerator right away. Also add ice or cold paks around the turkey/brine solution so it chills the brine asap (don't want the turkey to get warm).

    Brine for 6-8 hours. Rinse VERY well with cold water and cook.

    This was excellent, but I'm also VERY anxious to try your herb-brine recipe, too, Jen. Maybe I'll do that for Christmas!

    Happy holidays!

    1. I plan on trying your brine this Christmas.

      I messed up. . . again! I LOVE turkey skin (hope I didn't lose any respect) and gave into the temptation to toss the turkey under the broiler to get it nice and crispy. It dried out the top part of the breast. The years we have company I don't do it because the skin isn't good for me and (more importantly) it tends to gross people out. This year I ate the dried out part and everyone else had the juicy, tender part of the breast. I smother mine with gravy so it really didn't matter much. It's one of three big binge meals I eat a year so I just go for it! There was enough juicy breast leftovers so I ended up with the best of both worlds!