We generally brine our turkeys, out of habit now almost. And because the Cooks Illustrated timing
seems to work well for us, and if we are using a frozen turkey, brining is a GREAT way to finish defrosting the bird. We often use a cooler for the brining process and put in cold water and ice if necessary or put it outside or somewhere fridge-like.
Below is the Cooks Illustrated recipe for brining and roasting. We have also used this recipe without brining, in that case I do add some salt to the melted fat spread on the bird.
Another brining technique is outlined in the flattering “Yelp” review a farm shopper wrote.
Cooks Illustrated offers a 4-6 hour and a 12-14 hour brine. We have done both, and haven’t noticed any differences. We have noted that our pasture-raised birds tend to cook a bit faster. So keep an eye on the thermometer to avoid overcooking.
1 turkey (12 to 22 pounds gross weight), rinsed thoroughly, giblets and neck reserved for gravy, if making
4 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted (or poultry fat, or lard – all work great)
Dissolve 1 cup salt per gallon cold water for 4- to 6-hour brine or 1/2 cup salt per gallon cold water for 12- to 14-hour brine in large stockpot or clean bucket. Two gallons of water will be sufficient for most birds; larger birds may require three gallons. Add turkey and refrigerate for predetermined amount of time. (We often use a cooler and put it outside or somewhere fridge-like)
Before removing turkey from brine, adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 400 degrees for 12- to 18-pound bird or 425 degrees for 18- to 22-pound bird. Line large V-rack with heavy-duty foil and use paring knife or skewer to poke 20 to 30 holes in foil; set V-rack in large roasting pan.
Remove turkey from brine and rinse well under cool running water. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Tuck tips of drumsticks into skin at tail to secure, and tuck wing tips behind back. Brush turkey breast with 2 tablespoons butter. Set turkey breast-side down on prepared V-rack; brush back with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Roast 45 minutes for 12- to 18-pound bird or 1 hour for 18- to 22-pound bird.
Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven (close oven door to retain oven heat); reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees if roasting 18- to 22-pound bird. Using clean potholders or kitchen towels, rotate turkey breast-side up; continue to roast until thickest part of breast registers 165 degrees and thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes longer for 12- to 15-pound bird, about 1 1/4 hours for 15- to 18-pound bird, or about 2 hours longer for 18- to 22-pound bird. Transfer turkey to carving board; let rest 30 minutes (or up to 40 minutes for 18- to 22-pound bird). Carve and serve.