This is a Thanksgiving turkey recipe that I have used for 12+ years. It is based on Alton Brown’s roasted turkey recipe. I adjusted the spices a bit so they were easier to measure. Using a fresh rather than frozen turkey makes a big difference. Brining the night before and cooking to the right temperature keep the turkey super moist.
Size of the Turkey
We like to have extra if possible to feed all of the overnight visitors for lunch the next day, so we typically get a large turkey. For us a 22 pound turkey works for about 16 adults. If we have more adults we get a second meat like a ham. Since we only have two ovens and side dishes take one, we get a honey baked ham that doesn’t require heating.
The estimate of 16 people for a 22 pound turkey is based on the number of adults. If you find a smaller turkey, but can subtract 2 people per pound as the size goes down to 16.
22 pounds = 16 adults
20 pounds = 14 adults
18 pounds = 12 adults
16 pound = 10 adults
The mix for the brine is vegetable stock with salt, whole pepper corn, allspice, and ginger. Combining these and letting the turkey sit overnight pulls a lot of moisture into the meat. It is super juicy as a result.
One piece of equipment that makes cooking the turkey easier is a good thermometer. I have a few, but the best for turkey is the kind with a long cable. The probe stays in bird as it cooks. The electronics connect to the cable and sit on the counter. Cooking until the breast meat is exactly 161 F makes a really big difference. The turkey isn’t dry if you cook it just to temperature.
One trick I learned along the way was that the turkey needs to rest for at least 20-30 minutes after you take it out of the oven. That let’s the liquid in the meat move around and makes it juicier. This also lets you reheat several side dishes. After we pull the turkey out, we rest it on the counter and shift a bunch of 13×9 pans of side dishes into the oven that had the turkey.
The roasting pan develops some great flavors as the turkey cooks. You can capture those by adding chicken stock to the pan a few minutes before you pull it out of the oven. Then you can use it with this gravy recipe.
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We like this thermometer for Turkey. OXO Good Grips Chef’s Digital Leave-In Thermometer, Stainless Steel
Our favorite fat separator for gravy is this one: OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Fat Separator