Step 3

Your turkey CAN look like this on Thanksgiving...just follow the steps
Step 3: Prepare The Turkey 

Shopping List
  • 5 gallon non-reactive (plastic or stainless steel) container
  • Sugar
  • Dried sage, rosemary and thyme
  • Peppercorns  
  • Plastic or latex gloves
  • Dried fruit peel, cinnamon sticks, cloves, red pepper flakes (optional)
There are a few steps to go through here, but they arent too difficult.  Nothing you can't handle.
Prepare to brine the turkey: locate a container large enough to hold both the turkey, and enough water to cover it (3-4 gallons).  A large 5 Gallon Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Lid  is ideal.  A large cooler could also do the trick; just make sure it is large enough to hold both the turkey and the water, and allow the turkey to be turned over (you'll want to turn the turkey halfway through the brine time, as any solids in the brine will sit on the bottom of the container) .  If you bought a frozen turkey, you can test whether the stock pot or cooler is large enough before you remove the wrapping by placing the turkey in the container, and adding several gallons of water). 

Prepare the brine: in a large bowl, mix together the following: 1 gallon water, 2 cups kosher salt, 2 cups sugar.  Stir the mixture until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved (you'll know they're dissolved when you can no longer hear or feel the salt/sugar crystals scraping along the bottom).  To this mixture, add 1 table spoon each of dried sage, rosemary and thyme.  Add in two or three bay leaves, and a few peppercorns if you have them (feel free to add additional spices to your taste, such as crushed red pepper flakes, dried fruit peel, cinnamon sticks, cloves, etc.).   If you bought a frozen turkey, remove the plastic at this time.  If you have disposable gloves,now would be a good time to put them on.

Grit your teeth, and reach inside the cavity (the big hole on the back side of the bird).  There should be a plastic or paper wrapped packet containing the heart, liver gizzards, and neck of the turkey (if you purchased a fresh turkey, these may be packaged separately).  Set this aside - these parts can be used later to make gravy or stuffing.  Place the turkey inside of the large container you selected to brine the turkey in.  Carefully pour the brining mixture into the container, and add enough water or vegetable stock (I use half stock/half water) to cover the turkey by an inch.  If you can't fit the container in the refrigerator, cover the top of the turkey with a plastic, resealable bag filled with ice.   Use enough ice to keep the turkey submerged in the brine.  Cover the container with whatever lid is appropriate - weigh it down with books or canned food if necessary, being careful to not cause the brine to spill out.

Important note: leave the turkey in the brine for one hour per pound of turkey, 24 hours max (for example, a 20lb turkey needs to stay in the brine for 20 hours, so it's best to put a turkey that size in the brine no later than noon the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and take it out by 8pm on Wednesday).  When the brine time is up, put on your protective gloves, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it thoroughly and completely,  inside and out.  Now is the time to use  the spray attachment on your faucet if you have one.

Pat the bird dry with paper towels.  If you're not wearing gloves, wash your hands thoroughly before proceeding to Step 4: Seasoning The Turkey.