Without a doubt the thing that most intimidated me about hosting my first Thanksgiving was cooking the turkey. I mean sure, I’ve roasted chickens before, but no chicken is as large as the 23 pound bird we brought home from the butcher. To be honest, before last year I never even liked Thanksgiving turkey. In my experience it always seemed dried out and bland, but somehow it was still the centerpiece of the meal. Drowning it in gravy didn’t seem a good solution either – I mean, why even eat it at all if it doesn’t taste good?
Thankfully good old Alton Brown gave me all the confidence I needed in tackling the task. Have you seen the episode of Good Eats about roast turkey? If not, you need to. It is always played numerous times throughout the month of November, but in case you don’t catch it, check it out here. According to Food Network, this has been their most popular recipe for six years running and it is obvious why. Thanksgiving is a big holiday, and the turkey is a big deal. Let’s do it right! As Alton explains in the episode, brining makes for a wonderful turkey by locking in moisture and flavor.
For me I think the biggest issue of making the turkey was logistics. Namely, what sort of container is large enough to hold the bird and all the brine without making the level of brine so shallow that it doesn’t come close to covering the turkey. This is harder than it may sound. My best advice from last year is to figure out what container this will be early on. Everything we had available – cooler, various large storage containers, etc. were either way too big or a few too small. Ben ended up running out to the hardware store the day before Thanksgiving and found a perfect size galvanized metal cooler that was exactly what we needed. Also consider where you will be able to store the bird once it is in the brine. If your fridge is full of various side dishes for the following day, you’ll need a plan B. I fully intend to purchase a second refrigerator for our garage some day but for now, the chilly Indiana nighttime works just fine.
One final entertaining tip is to plan some sort of garnish to go around your finished turkey. I tend to rummage through my fridge and find whatever might add some color and is otherwise likely to go to waste. I have used green and purple kale, and it looks lovely. In the image above, I used the greens I had cut from a bunch of carrots! I think a combination of greens and fruit looks great, but whatever you do, at least use something. After you spend all that time making a lovely, perfectly browned bird you want to present it well.