Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey: Make The Juiciest One Ever!


Brined Thanksgiving Turkey


Why you should adopt holidays from other countries

I can’t believe it’s the beginning of November already!  What’s happened to the rest of the year?  It feels as though I’ve just put away the New Year’s Celebration things, went to bed, and now I’ve woken up, it’s nearly Thanksgiving and Christmas time again! Well, that may mean that I celebrated New Year’s Eve for waaaay too long, but either way, I’m feeling a little cheated that the time is flying by so quickly. Every year for the last few years, we’ve been celebrating American Thanksgiving with a California girl transplanted to France. We say it’s to make her feel less homesick around the holiday season, but in actual fact, it’s because it’s a fabulous excuse to eat turkey and tons of other food, and drink wine with our friends!


Serving turkey


The perfect way to roast a Thanksgiving turkey

Every year, we’ve been preparing the turkey the same way.  The first year we decided to make a Thanksgiving meal, we were both turkey-roasting novices, so pulled a recipe out of my falling-apart San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook.  The recipe worked so incredibly well, that we’ve tweaked it here and there a tiny bit, but for the last few years, we’ve stuck to it.  We found out that the secret to make the juciest, most tender turkey possible is to stick it in brine the day before.  It works every time! The Chronicle guys , in turn, got the recipe from one of the best restaurants in California called Chez Panisse. I had the huge pleasure to go there once.  It’s one of those restaurants that’s really hard to get a booking for. They take bookings one month in advance, and you have to try to call as soon as the day starts to get in. It’s a little like calling to get on a radio-show competition: you dial and redial until you get through.  There’s a set menu each evening, depending on what the chefs found at the market that day.


Jumbled Thanksgiving plate


who thinks of taking photos when you are in the middle of Thanksgiving?

You will have to excuse the dark, slightly out-of-focus photos.  By the time the turkey is ready, everyone has had a few glasses of prosecco, and are very eager to eat, so taking good photos is not a high priority. I scanned back over the last five years of us doing Thanksgiving together and this was the best I could come up with (so, imagine what the rest of the photos are like!).


Thanksgiving meal


Some table decoration ideas

I lived in California for five years, and only ate a Thanksgiving meal once when I was there, but now I live in France, it’s a nice way to remember my time in the States.  There’s nothing like picking up random holidays that you like from other countries you’ve lived in and celebrating them because you like them.  I think our kids are very confused about who does what and where in the world they do it!

My Californian friend is a fantastic table decorator.  She does the table every year, and each year she chooses a different colour scheme.  I found two examples below to maybe give you some ideas for decorating your own Thanksgiving table. I’m so glad she’s good at the whole table thing as I would probably just put out paper plates otherwise (I’m shocking at preparing tables to look beautiful!).


Table decoration


The most important tool you need for roasting turkey

I haven’t put a cooking time on the turkey as it depends on the size as to how long it roasts for.  It usually says on the bag how long it should take. The absolute best piece of equipment you can buy for getting the turkey cooked to the perfect point is an oven-proof thermometer. Then there’s no second-guessing and no killing people with salmonella-infested raw turkey meat.

One more very important hint before I go: don’t forget to take the plastic bag with all the giblets in it out of the turkey before cooking it! No matter how well you cook the turkey, if you leave the bag in, you’ll contaminate the whole bird!  Other than that, the turkey roasting is remarkably easy.  The only tricky thing is the size and weight of the bird.  You may need two people to lift it out of the oven.


Thanksgiving table decoration


This turkey goes wonderfully with side dishes of Crispy Roast Potatoes and colourful Stewed Cabbage and Apples.

By Lisa Watson



Brined Roast Turkey

How to make the juiciest roast turkey you have ever tasted!
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Brining time1 day
Total Time1 day 3 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 1 turkey


  • 10 L Water 2 1/2 gallons
  • 450 g Large crystal Salt 2 cups
  • 220 g Sugar 1 cup
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 1 head Garlic
  • 4 Allspice berries crushed
  • 5 Tbsp Dried Thyme
  • 5 Juniper Berries crushed
  • 1 Turkey
  • 5 – 6 Tbsp softened Butter
  • Turkey stock instructions below


To Make The Turkey Stock:

  • Cover 2 turkey legs, one peeled and halved onion and four peeled carrots with water, and simmer for 2 hours. Top up the water if it gets too low. This broth can be made in advance and frozen until the day it’s needed.

12 – 24 Hours Before Roasting:

  • Get a large container that can hold the turkey. Line it with a clean large trash bag.
  • Peel the garlic cloves.
  • Place all the ingredients from the water to the bay leaves in the bag and mix.
  • Carefully put the turkey into the water mixture and tie off the top of the bag.
  • Leave in the fridge, or somewhere where the temperature is between 0 – 5°C  (30 – 41 °F) for 12 to 24 hours.

To Roast The Turkey:

  • Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
  • Take the turkey out of the brine, rinse it under running water, then pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Smear butter all over the turkey.
  • Place the turkey in a large roasting pan, legs facing upwards. Cover the breast with aluminium foil.
  • After 45 minutes, take the foil off the breast part. Ladle 2/3 cup of turkey stock over the turkey, then continue to roast it.
  • Repeat the basting with the juices from the pan every 15 -20 minutes until the turkey is cooked. The time it takes will depend on the size of the turkey (see note below).  Use an oven-proof meat thermometer stuck into the thigh to check the progress of the cooking. (Don't let it touch the bone). When the turkey is ready, the internal temperature should be at 75°C (165°F).
  • At this point, take the turkey out of the oven and place it on a large serving plate. Leave it to sit for 20 minutes before carving it.


The turkey cooking time can vary greatly depending on the size of the bird. As a rough guide, calculate 20 minutes per pound ( about 40 minutes per kg) to get the total time needed.