Spiced & Brined Roast Turkey

We do indeed have much to be thankful for: our health, our family, our friends, . . . The list could go on and on; but at its end, for at least this year, there would be our best roast turkey ever. Without exaggeration, this year’s bird was beautifully bronzed, with tender juicy white meat; perfectly cooked dark; and had the crispiest skin. All this, in about 1.5 hours for a 14.5-pound bird.

I didn’t think I would do a post on it since, more often than not, our turkeys, though quite good, have never been worth writing about—until this year. In the past, I’ve done numerous variations on traditional roasting and last year turned out quite an impressive spatchcocked bird. In fact, I was going to do the same this year. However, when I came across a recipe for “Expertly Spiced and Glazed Roast Turkey” in the November issue of Bon Appetit, I changed my mind.

The recipe called for deconstructing the bird into five parts: breast, legs with thighs, and wings. Although the task of butchering a 14.5 bird gave me some pause, it was a relatively straightforward task facilitated by a pair of OXO poultry sheers and a very sharp boning knife.

Next came the process that led me to make this recipe: the dry brining that would yield the proffered “expertly spiced” bird. Except for small pieces of meat like chops, I’ve always avoided wet brining. Just the thought of finding a vessel large enough to accommodate a big bird and then the space required in the fridge convinced me that wet brining was not for me.

This recipe, however, called for the more convenient dry-brining method, which used an intriguing blend with copious amounts of peppercorns, Kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and a pinch of light brown sugar. Adding to the flavor would be the brushing of the turkey with a glaze made with herbs, garlic, orange zest, soy sauce, sherry vinegar, and brown sugar. Again, I’m not one for glazing, but the magazine’s photo of the bird tempted me to try it.

Turkey with Dry Brine Slat Mixture Ready for Fridge

The recipe is available online and I pretty much followed it exactly. My only departures from it were adding a tad more brown sugar to the brine, reducing the amount of soy sauce in the glaze for fear of having an over salted turkey, and adding about 10 minutes to the cooking time to reach the desired 170° on my instant-read thermometer.

When using long recipes, whether sourced from online or books, I typically type them out and break long paragraphs with their “meanwhile” and “while the. . .is cooking” into a list that looks something like the one below:

Glaze and Assembly

  1. Remove turkey from wire rack and rinse baking sheet and rack if needed (turkey will most likely release some liquid).
  2. Line baking sheet with 3 layers of foil to make cleanup easy and set rack back inside. Arrange turkey pieces on rack, skin side up, and let sit at room temperature 2–3 hours to help decrease the cooking time.
  3. Meanwhile, cook herbs, garlic, orange zest, soy sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and glaze thickens slightly (it should just barely coat a spoon), 10–12 minutes. Remove glaze from heat.
  4. Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 425°.
  5. Rub turkey with oil and pour 1 cup water into baking sheet.
  6. Roast turkey, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until skin is mostly golden brown, 20–25 minutes.
      • 15 minutes turn
      • 10 minutes
  7. Reduce oven temperature to 300° and continue to roast turkey,
      • 1st brushing
      • 2nd brushing
      • 3rd brushing

    brushing with glaze every 20 minutes and adding more water by ½-cupfuls as needed to maintain some liquid in baking sheet, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers 150°, and 170° when inserted into the thickest part of the thighs, 50–70 minutes longer (total cooking time will be 1–1½ hours). Skin should be deep golden brown and shiny. Transfer turkey to. . .

To ensure all will be prepared on time, I also pencil in the times at which steps 4 though 7 should be done.

The turkey was accompanied by a fennel, sausage, chestnut, and ciabatta stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes, a green-bean casserole, and Whole Foods Holiday Gravy and whole-cranberry sauce. Our wine, a California Pinot Noir.

If you’re wondering why I’ve only used two photos for this posting, I can only say that I did the butchering of the turkey while my better half was at work and since we were entertaining guests on Thanksgiving Day, we didn’t have the opportunity. Perhaps this was a good thing since I’m sure my husband would have wanted to make videos of me either dismembering the 14.5-pound turkey or hoisting the heavy sheet pan from the oven, either of which, more than likely, would have embarrassingly gone viral.

3 thoughts on “Dry-Brined and Glazed Roast Turkey

  1. Ahhhhh a man after my own heart, using a bit more brown sugar that called for in the recipe. I believe, like garlic, you can never have too much brown sugar. Though I’m still really disappointed there’s no videos of you dismembering the 14.5-pound turkey ;). So glad your turkey turned out so great!

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