Brining a turkey can seem like an ordeal, but using your refrigerator’s crisper drawer makes it easy! Just heat the brine ingredients, let the mixture cool, pour it into a big resealable bag, and put the turkey in the bag. Then put the turkey in the drawer, refrigerate, and let the brine go to work making your bird flavorful and moist thanks to the salt, apple cider, and spices. Make sure to use a natural turkey and rinse it off before you roast it for a flavorful but not overly salty gravy.
What to buy: To control the salt for the gravy, buy a natural fresh turkey that has no salt injections. Also, be sure to use an unsalted stock or low-sodium broth for the gravy.
Special equipment: You will need a large (about 10-gallon), food-safe, resealable bag for brining the turkey.
You’ll also need butcher’s twine for this recipe.
Game plan: Make sure you plan for at least 4 to 5 days of thawing time for a frozen turkey, and remember that the brining takes between 8 and 16 hours.
Watch the CHOW Test Kitchen’s Amy Wisniewski make this easy brined turkey in an episode of our Easiest Way video series.
- 1Make the brine: Place the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, and 3 cups of the water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the salt and sugar are almost completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- 2Place a large resealable bag inside a 4-gallon container (most removable vegetable or crisper drawers are the right size). Open the bag and add the remaining 11 cups of water, apple cider or juice, and cooled brine; set aside.
- 3Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey cavity and discard or save for another use. Remove any wire or plastic holding the legs together. Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels. Place it breast-side down in the brine and seal the bag, squeezing out the air so that the brine comes about halfway up the side of the turkey. Slide the drawer, or place the container, in the refrigerator and brine for 8 to 16 hours, turning the turkey once while it’s still inside the bag.
- 4The next day, heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the lower third. Remove the turkey from the brine and thoroughly rinse it inside and out with cold water for at least 2 minutes (rinsing will keep the gravy from being too salty). Discard the brine and bag.
- 5Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels and tuck the wing tips back and underneath. Rub a generous amount of oil all over the outside. Place the onion, celery, and herbs inside the cavity. Wind a piece of twine around each leg once and tie the ends together.
- 6Place the turkey breast-side down on a roasting rack set in a roasting pan.
- 7Roast for 1 hour. Flip the turkey onto its back and continue to roast, basting every 15 minutes once the pan juices accumulate, until a meat thermometer inserted into the inner thigh registers 165°F to 170°F and the juices run clear, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours more.
- 8Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, make the gravy.
For the gravy:
- 1Pour the drippings from the roasted turkey into a medium heatproof bowl. Let sit for a few minutes for the fat to rise to the top, then skim the fat off with a spoon and discard; set the drippings aside. (Alternatively, use a fat separator.)
- 2Place the roasting pan across 2 burners over medium heat. Scrape up any darkened or browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
- 3Return the reserved drippings to the pan (it’s OK if a little of the fat goes into the pan) and sprinkle evenly with the flour. Whisk the flour and drippings together and cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
- 4While whisking continuously, slowly add 2 cups of the stock or broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, being sure to whisk at the edges of the pan, until the gravy thickens slightly. If it seems too thick, add more stock or broth.
- 5Pour the mixture through a strainer set over a medium saucepan over low heat. Discard the solids from the strainer. Stir in the cream. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.