“Turkey for a Crowd”
Cook’s Illustrated, with adaptations by Rebecca Serven.
Serves 20 to 24
You can use any roasting pan to roast the turkey, even a disposable one, but make sure to use a V-rack to keep the bird elevated. Be careful to dry the skin thoroughly before brushing the bird with butter; otherwise it will have spotty brown skin. Rotating the bird helps produce moist, evenly cooked meat, but for the sake of ease, you may not opt to rotate it. In that case, skip the step of lining the V rack with foil and roast the bird breast side up for the entire cooking time. Because we do not brine the bird, we had the best results with a frozen Butterball (injected with salt and water) and a kosher bird (soaked in salt water during processing).
1. Place turkey in container large enough so water can cover it by 1 or 2 inches (if at all possible): Large stock pot, 5 gallon white bucket, etc.
2. Make room in the fridge for container.
3. Make sure turkey is completely thawed. Rinse well.
4. Make water and salt solution. Ratio is 1 cup salt to 1 gallon water. Make sure salt is dissolved!! Add seasonings (I use ¼ cup dried thyme as it compliments the Turkey for a Crowd Recipe).
5. Pour solution over bird until it covers it by 1 or 2 inches. You may need to make additional solution (remember to dissolve salt).
6. Brine for 10 to 12 hours, rotating if needed (so that all parts of the turkey are evenly brined).
7. Remove from brine, rinse in sink with cold water until all traces of salt are removed.
8. Safely discard brine and cook turkey as normal (omitting salt in recipe).
Variation: Combine 1 gallon of cold water with 1 cup kosher salt in a large stockpot. Heat until salt is dissolved. Add 4 ounces of cracked black peppercorns, 6 bay leaves, 4 sprigs of rosemary, and 1 cup brown sugar. Stir until combined; cool to room temperature. Place the defrosted or fresh turkey in a large plastic bag, fill with brine to submerge turkey, and refrigerate for 12-15 hours. Rub, roast and baste as usual.
Turkey Roasting Methodology
2 medium onions, chopped coarse
2 medium carrots, chopped coarse
2 celery ribs, chopped coarse
1 lemon, quartered
2 sprigs (3 to 4 inches each) fresh thyme
1 frozen Butterball or Kosher or Fresh Brined Turkey (18 to 22 pounds gross weight) turkey rinsed and thoroughly dried with paper towels
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt (omit if you just brined the turkey)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position; remove remaining racks. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line large V rack with heavy duty foil and poke holes in foil; set V rack in 15 by 12 inch roasting pan.
2. Toss onions, carrots, celery, lemon, and thyme in medium bowl; set aside. Brush turkey breast with 2 tablespoons butter, then sprinkle with half or salt (or omit) and half of black pepper. Set turkey breast side down on V rack. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle with remaining salt (or omit) and black pepper. Fill cavity with half of onion mixture; scatter rest in roasting pan and pour 1 cup water into pan.
3. Roast turkey 1 hour; remove roasting pan with turkey from oven. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees. Using clean dishtowel or 2 potholders, turn/flip turkey breast side up (long ways works best—grab drumsticks); return to roasting pan with turkey to oven and continue to roast until legs move freely and instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 180 degrees, about 2 hours longer (usually a little longer than they say). Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest, uncovered 35 to 40 minutes. Carve and serve.
4. Make gravy from drippings and flour.