Brining and Baking a Whole Turkey


  • 1 C. salt, preferably kosher
  • 1/2-1 C. brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1-2 T. peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6-8 fresh sage leaves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed


  1. On Tuesday before Thanksgiving, combine the brine ingredients in a large pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar. Then remove the brine from the heat and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate.
  2. On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, add 1 gallon of heavily iced water to the brine. Place the turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in a large brining bag. I set my brining bag inside of a clean bucket to give it support. Pour the brine and ice water mixture over the turkey, making sure it is completely immersed. Close your brining bag and set in a cool place or in the fridge for 10-18 hours.
  3. 2-3 hours before you want to eat on Thanksgiving Day, preheat the oven to 500° F (260° C).
  4. Remove the turkey from the brine and rise it inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
  5. Place the turkey on a grilling rack over a large baking pan and pat it dry with paper towels.
  6. Place some herbs (rosemary, sage), an onion cut in half and a lemon or two cut in half, inside the cavity of the turkey.
  7. Tuck the wings underneath the turkey and coat the entire bird with canola oil. Or, if you prefer, you can cover the turkey breast with slices of uncooked bacon which keeps the breast moist and gives it even more flavor.
  8. Roast the turkey at 500° F (260 ° C) on the lowest shelf of the oven for 30 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350° F (180° C) and roast until a meat thermometer inserted into the fullest part of the breast registers 160° F (71° C). Ovens are all a bit different, and depending how often you open it, how insulated it is, etc., can cause the roasting time to vary. It should take about 2-2 ½ hours.
  9. Let the turkey rest loosely covered with foil for 15 minutes before carving.


  1. 11-13-2012

    Can you do this with medium sized chickens? What would the brining time look like? Using all dried spices is ok I would imagine. No fresh sage and rosemary in these parts. 🙂

    • 11-13-2012

      Carma, I’m sure you could brine a medium-sized chicken though I would probably make half of the amount of brine, or even less. I think you could brine it about the same amount of time, if you use this brine recipe because there is a lot of liquid in proportion to the salt. The Simple Brine for Turkey Breasts (my other post) has a lot more salt and so the meat is brined for a shorter period of time. I’m sure fresh sage and rosemary are fine but you might consider bringing some seeds back from the States (or having someone mail them to you). Both sage and rosemary are easy to grow and prolific in warm weather.

  2. 11-13-2012

    Ok, I am going to try this, with one addition-bacon strips along the top instead of canola oil. Now, how long does it take for a 12 lb turkey to cook? I had heard 325 for so many minutes per pound, but I like the 500 for 30 minutes, and 350 after….thanks for the tips!

    • 11-13-2012

      Diane, great idea about the bacon strips! I did that last year as well and we loved it-forgot to include that in the recipe so I’ll add it now. Especially when using bacon it’s great to use the higher temperature at the beginning, but I’m afraid I don’t know how long to tell you to roast your 12 lb. turkey beginning with a higher temperature. Did a little research in Joy of Cooking (which also advocates starting with a higher temperature) and on the web but couldn’t find any time charts that use this method. It would less than 2 hours, I’m quite sure, if it is unstuffed. I love my remote thermometer-which you insert in the meat and you can watch the temperature gauge OUTSIDE of the oven. Take the turkey out when the temperature gets to 160 degrees and let rest about 20 minutes before carving to give the juices time to be absorbed into the meat. Best of luck! And happy thanksgiving!

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