Prepare Your Turkey with a Professional Flair

The brine and rub are an integral part of bringing out the natural, delicious flavors

By Woody Isaac, Executive Chef of Poplar Springs Inn & Spa – The Manor House Restaurant

Chef Isaac prefers the tenderness and flavor of a younger bird, so this recipe is for a young turkey, approximately 12 pounds. For those of you who are preparing for a crowd, you may opt to cook two young turkeys in lieu of one large bird. Additionally, brining is a great way to prepare a bird because it enhances the overall flavor and will allow the meat to retain moisture — no more dry Thanksgiving turkey! The brining process is a little more work, but it is well worth it. Remember to brine the bird one to two days in advance.

Brine Ingredients

  • 1.5 gallons water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 3-4 whole star anise
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Peel of 1 orange
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic

Brine Directions

Note: You can make the brine up to three days prior to cooking. Make it in the morning, cool it down, and submerge the bird when the brine reaches a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit or less.

Step one: Bring water to a boil, remove from heat. Combine all ingredients and add to hot water. Stir with whisk to combine. Do not cook. Cool the brine to 40 degrees.

Step two: In a large container submerge the turkey in the brine. If the turkey floats you can weigh it down with some plates to ensure it is completely submerged. Make sure the organs/giblets are removed before brining.

Step three: Refrigerate for 1-2 days. Remove the turkey and place on a sheet tray or large platter and refrigerate uncovered overnight.

Rub Ingredients

The rub may be prepared ahead of time, but if using fresh herbs remember to refrigerate once it is mixed to maintain flavor.

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped sage (preferably fresh)
  • 1/4 cup chopped rosemary (preferably fresh)
  • ¼ cup thyme (preferably fresh)
  • Combine all ingredients and reserve.

Stuffing Ingredients

This is not a traditional stuffing, as I do not like putting a bread stuffing inside a bird. I prefer to cook that separately. This stuffing is ideal because it adds flavor to the bird and the pan drippings will offer a more savory, seasoned, delicious gravy.

  • 3 large shallots
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 ribs of celery
  • 1 granny smith apple
  • 1 large orange

Directions for stuffing:

Step one: Rough chop all the above ingredients (i.e. cut in large non-uniform chunks, about the size of a golf ball.)

Step two: Mix all ingredients and stuff inside the bird.

Turkey Rub and Roasting Directions

Preheat oven to 275 degrees

Step one: Put the turkey on a pan that has a drip rack. Rub the bird with canola oil (enough to coat the bird). This will help the seasoning rub stick to it.

Step two: Rub the bird down with the seasoning rub you prepared. Be sure to rub the mixture on from top and bottom.  

Step three: Roast the turkey at 275 degrees for 2.5 hours covered with foil. Seal the foil tight around the edges so the steam cannot escape.

Step four: Increase the temperature after 2.5 hours to 450 degrees to finish the bird. Then cook at this temperature for about 15-20 minutes more, uncovered, to crisp the skin; if you have an effective broiler setting you can use that. I prefer the broiler method, but you must keep close watch on it because it will go from crispy to burnt rather quickly.

Step five: Use the drippings to make a gravy.

Special Note: Remember, the cook time can vary so just make sure your bird has an internal temperature of 155 degrees. Most recipes will say to cook a turkey to 160 or 165 degrees, but a large turkey will “carry over cook,” which means when you take it out of the oven it will cook an additional five to eight degrees outside the oven prior to cooling down in temperature.

Delish. Bon appetite.

About the Author:

Woody Isaac is the Executive Chef for the Manor House Restaurant at Poplar Springs Inn & Spa. Chef Isaac has been creating dishes in professional kitchens for over 15 years. His dishes feature flavors fresh from seasonal offerings and provide delightful intrigue to all palettes.

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