So, who’s ready for Thanksgiving? I am decidedly unenthused about it this year. I just don’t feel like hosting so I’m not. We still haven’t figured out quite what our plans will be. (If you are a new reader and missed the backstory, see this post.) However, I know many of you are definitely in the throes of planning and I do want to help you out. I considered doing a round-up post with a lot of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes, but I don’t know. Do you like those kinds of things? Are they helpful? Sometimes the “431 Perfect Recipes for Flag Day” things I see everywhere seem like overkill. I have lots of other recipes to share right now, but my guess is that most of you are interested in planning for the holiday. So with that in mind, what are some things you would like to see posted? I’ll try to make at least a few of them happen for you in the next week or two.

This year I did decide to experiment a bit with the best method for cooking the turkey. Over the several years that I have hosted so far, I have found that Alton Brown’s method involving a brine and steeped aromatics is an essential foundation for an excellent bird. There are tons of different brine recipes and many combinations of aromatics you could use. But whatever you do, be sure to use both! This time I decided to build on that foundation and take it to the next level by incorporating a herb compound butter.

Here the herb butter does double duty. Part of it is rubbed under the skin and over the meat of the bird for a major boost in flavor. The rest is melted and brushed over the skin to ensure that gorgeous golden brown exterior that signifies a perfectly done turkey. We were amazed at the difference this made in the final product and as far as we are concerned, this will now become part of our best method.

  • Yield depends on size of bird


1 (14-16 lb.) fresh turkey

For the brine: 

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics: 

  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage

For the herb butter: 

  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1½ tbsp. minced fresh sage
  • 1½ tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Coarse salt and pepper, to taste


  • 01

    To prepare the brine, combine the salt, brown sugar, vegetable stock, peppercorns, allspice and ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the solids.  Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until ready to use.

  • 02

    The night before you plan to serve the turkey, combine the brine and ice water in a large bucket.  Place the thawed turkey (innards removed) breast side down in the brine.  If necessary, weigh down the bird so it is fully immersed.  Cover and refrigerate or set in a cool area for 8-16 hours, turning once halfway through brining.

  • 03

    Adjust the oven racks to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Remove the bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water.  Discard the brine.  (Be sure to clean out your sink well after this step!)  Place the bird on the wire rack inside a roasting pan, breast side up.  Pat dry with paper towels.

  • 04

    Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the aromatics from the pan to the cavity of the turkey along with the fresh herbs.

  • 05

    In a small bowl, combine the butter, fresh herbs and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir together with a spoon until well blended. Starting around the neck, run your hand between the skin and meat of the turkey, gently separating them. Do the same from the other side of the bird, loosening the skin around the thighs and legs. Now use about two thirds of the compound butter to rub over the meat, under the skin of the turkey. It is okay if the butter is clumped – it will melt as it cooks. Tuck the wings under the bird. Melt the remaining butter in the microwave and brush in an even layer over the skin of the bird (breast side up in the roasting pan.)

  • 06

    Transfer the pan to the oven and cook at 425˚ F for 45 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ F and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast registers 160˚ F and 175˚ F in the thigh. Monitor the browning of the skin and once it has reached the desired shade of golden brown, after about 60-90 minutes, tent loosely with foil through the remainder of the cooking time. (A 14-16 lb. bird will take approximately 2-2½ hours.) Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

  • 07


    • You can make a larger turkey with this recipe. Just keep in mind that it will take longer to cook through, and an instant-read thermometer is absolutely essential for knowing when the bird is properly cooked. 
    • I highly recommend using a fresh rather than a frozen turkey.  Many frozen turkeys are injected with a salt-laden preservative that will cause your bird to be overly salted after brining.  And plus, it’s Thanksgiving!  Go for the best quality ingredients available – fresh tastes better.  If using frozen, thaw in the refrigerator 2-3 days before roasting.