Learning how to cook a brined turkey dinner can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. We will show you how to make a juicy turkey as well as turkey stuffing with sausage without getting frazzled.
As there are a few turkey dinners coming up in the next few months, Debbie and I thought we should let you in on a little secret. Learning how to cook a brined turkey so you can serve a perfect juicy roasted turkey is actually totally doable without feeling overwhelmed! It just takes a little organization and planning.
If you have ever made a roasted turkey and the white meat of your turkey came out dry, the secret is to brine the turkey. Brining is basically submerging your turkey in a salty liquid flavored with herbs and spices. Brining makes your turkey (and any lean meat for that matter) juicier when cooked because it works to denature the proteins. In other words, it makes the proteins deform and relax a little.
A brined turkey will loose about 15 percent of its weight when cooked for 6 – 8 hours where an unbrined turkey will loose almost 30 percent! SO… a brined turkey will be roughly 15 percent juicier and trust me, you will notice the difference! Debbie and I always brine our turkeys now and they always turn out delicious and moist. If you have never tried it, be prepared for rave reviews around your table!
I have to say that I haven’t tasted a ton of different turkey stuffings, however, I have tasted a few and Debbies turkey stuffing, is over the top good! The best I have ever tasted. And I think this year it was the best of the best! She never puts apples or any kind of fruit in it, although you could if you like it like that. Instead it is full of sausage, celery, and herbs. She always makes more than will fit in the bird and cooks the extra in a crockpot till the rest comes out of the bird and I always sneak little bowls of it when shes not looking lol. (This crockpot is a beauty) I cant stand waiting to have some! Not when I can smell it throughout the whole kitchen!
Learning how to cook a juicy brined turkey takes some organization and preparation. Its basically a 3 day process, but only day 2 and 3 require a little work. Day 3 is when you will cook the turkey and have your dinner. Lets get to it shall we.
How to Cook a Brined Turkey Dinner:
Day 1: Thaw Your Turkey
This day is easy. If your turkey is frozen, take it out of the freezer and allow it to thaw out completely before moving on to the next step. If you bought your turkey thawed, your a step ahead! Move on to Day 2.
Day 2: The Brine and Stuffing
On day 2 you need to brine your turkey. Follow the instructions below to mix together the brining liquid. Brine your turkey for at least 12 hours overnight, but the longer the better. Doesn’t that look good even just like that?!
Brining Liquid for Your Turkey
- 40 cups water
- 2 cups salt
- 4 heads of garlic
- 1/4 cup of peppercorns
- 20 bay leaves
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch rosemary
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 cup brown sugar
In a big bot, add the water and all the ingredients. There is no need to take the skin off the garlic, just separate the bulbs. Throw in your herbs stems and all, just give them a good wash before hand.
Bring the works to a boil for 15 mins and turn it off. Set it aside to cool before you put the turkey in it. Add the turkey to the cooled liquid and leave it there for at least 12 hours.
You will need a big brining bag or a big bucket to put your turkey in with the brining liquid. But it needs to be able to fit in the fridge.
At some point on day 2 you should make your turkey stuffing with sausage. You don’t have to make it ahead of time, but having this step done a day ahead will make day 3 just a bit easier.
Have I mentioned yet, that this turkey stuffing is the best I have ever tasted?! I can just smell it right now… Mmmmmm
This turkey stuffing with sausage is really easy. You can buy your sausage pre-ground and not in casings but make sure you don’t get a spicy sausage. There is a ton of veggies in this recipe. Don’t be scared…. Make the whole thing. Trust me, people will love it and eat it! Its best to have lots of leftovers for turkey sandwiches!
Make sure not to add any salt to the stuffing if you are brining your turkey. The turkey will release some of the salty brine water and flavor the stuffing with it.
Turkey Stuffing with Sausage and Vegetables
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 5 lbs sausage meat
- 3 whole celery bunches , diced
- 8 onions , diced
- 300 gr of bread (about 1 loaf) , day old at least and cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped thyme
- 1/2 cup rosemary
- 1 - 2 tsp pepper
- NO SALT IF YOU ARE BRINING YOUR TURKEY
- Cheesecloth bag for stuffing the turkey
In a frying pan, add the oil and chopped celery and onions and saute. Once they are tender put them into a large bowl.
Next cook the sausage in the same pan. If it has lots of fat, make sure to drain it or remove it with a turkey baster. When fully cooked, add the sausage to the large bowl as well.
Then add the fresh herbs and bread cubes to the bowl and mix it all together. Cover it and put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook your turkey.
When you are ready to cook your turkey, fill a cheesecloth bag with the stuffing and place it inside the turkey before you cook your turkey and cook it with your turkey.
Any remaining stuffing can be cooked by itself in a crock pot on low for about 4 hours as your turkey cooks. If you do this, add about 1.5 cups of chicken stock to the crockpot while the stuffing cooks in there.
Day 3: Cook Your Turkey
Today is the day you’re going to learn how to cook a brined turkey! In the morning of day 3, figure out how long you need to roast the turkey for. It takes about 17 mins per pound for your stuffed turkey to roast so figure out when you are going to need to put it in the oven and plan your time accordingly. You want your turkey cooked about 1 hour before you serve dinner so it has time to rest. This is important.
For example if you want to eat dinner at 6pm and you have a 15 lb turkey, you will need to put your turkey in the hot oven no later than 12:30 noon so that it has 4.5 hours to cook and 1 hour to rest before dinner is served.
Next get your roaster ready (this one is awesome with heat proof handles, this one is also nice with low sides) Add carrots, celery, and onions to the bottom of your roasting pan so that your gravy gets all that flavor. You can just set the turkey right on top of the veggies if you like, however using a rack on top of the veggies or a silicone turkey lifter (Debbie has this one) works great and makes it easier to lift the turkey out of the pan once its cooked.
Pull out your turkey out of the brine and get it ready to cook. You need to rinse your turkey really really well. If you dont rinse it well, the meat will be salty. Pat your turkey dry with a clean tea towel and let it sit out for at least 30 mins to air dry a little. A dry turkey will brown much nicer.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees .
Time to stuff the bird… If you can find a cheesecloth bag for your stuffing it works best. (these bags will work perfect) Put a little bit of stuffing in the bag and push it into the turkey. Continue filling the rest of the bag till its full and tie the bag nice and tight.
Tying up your bird will ensure that it cooks evenly and the wings and legs don’t get cooked too quickly and get dry. Take some butcher string and tie the wings so that they fit snug to the bird. Tie the drumsticks as well. For a short video on how to truss up a turkey, click here.
Place the turkey in a roasting pan breast up. Drizzle olive oil all over it and season with pepper and poultry spice. NO SALT. Throw a few sprigs of rosemary under the skin with some butter. Throw some paprika on him if you like for color.
If you have a meat thermometer, insert it just above the thigh bone pointing towards the body. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you should seriously consider investing in one. They make cooking a turkey, or roast beef to the correct temperature much easier than just timing it. If you have to time the turkey, remember that 17 mins per pound is a good guideline to follow. Don’t cook it any more than that for sure! This is the thermometer that both Debbie and I have. Its so awesome because you set it to the temperature that you want and it will alert you when it reaches that temperature. Set it to 165 degrees and stick it in the breast.
Your turkey is ready for the oven!
Make sure you put the turkey in the oven with enough time to cook the bird and also have a 1 hour resting time. This will result in a much juicier bird than cutting into the meat right away. While the bird cooks all the juices get pulled to the center and when you allow your meat to rest, the juices are re-distributed again.
Cover your turkey (with a roasting lid or tin foil) and throw your bird in the oven!
Get your Veggies ready
While you are waiting your brined turkey to cook, you have lots of time to get the rest of your dinner prepped. Wash and peel your potatoes for the mashed potatoes and put them in a covered pot of water with a good pinch of salt and a few garlic cloves if you like garlic in your mash. Clean your veggies for your veggie side. We usually do roast broccoli and carrots (sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a little herbes de provence) roasted in the oven at 350 for 15 – 20 mins. The carrots usually need to go in first and then the broccoli after.
Then sit back for a bit and have a glass of wine or better yet, have one of our cocktails!
When the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165° in the breast it is done. Take it out of the oven and tent it well with foil and let it rest.
Start the heat on your potatoes so that they come to a boil. Boil till they are soft and mash them up good with some butter, salt and a little milk or cream. I’ve also used coconut cream before and its great.
In the mean time take the turkey out of the roaster and put it on a big tray, take the stuffing out first and place it in a bowl or add it to the rest of the stuffing in a crock pot. Keep it covered and hot! Tent the turkey with a bunch of tin foil so that it can rest and stay warm. Tuck the foil around the turkey nice and tight to prevent the heat from escaping. Set the turkey aside out of your way to do its thing.
Make the Gravy
Remove the vegetables from the turkey roaster and discard. Pour the drippings into a fat separator if you have one. These are such nice little tools for making gravy without all the fat! If you don’t, place the gravy in a see through container and wait till the fat separates. Then scoop off as much fat as you can. Return the drippings to the gravy roaster and heat the roaster on the stove at medium high. Add 2 boxes of low sodium chicken broth and stir. Using about 1/2 cup of flour for the gravy or 1/4 cup of cornstartch, make a slurry with water and add it to thicken the gravy. (A slurry is flour or cornstarch mixed with a little water until its smooth. This will make sure you don’t get lumps in your gravy) Season with pepper and salt if you need it, but taste it before adding salt. Pour it into a gravy boat.
Carve up your roasted turkey masterpiece and serve it with the mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, stuffing, and of course, cranberry sauce. Don’t ever forget the cranberry sauce! And don’t forget to take a picture of all your guests sitting at the table like we did! At least we got a couple pictures of our dinner. We were pretty focused on dinner. That’s our story and were stickin to it…
It may seem like a lot of work! And it is a bit of work for sure… but its worth it! Just look at that bird… Its a thing of beauty.
How to make a Juicy Brined and Roasted Turkey Stuffed with Amazing Sausage Dressing
FOR THE TURKEY
- Large turkey breast
- 4 carrots washed and chopped in big pieces
- 4 celery stalks , washed and chopped in big pieces
- 1 onion
- few tbsp. olive oil
- 3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary
- couple pats of butter
- sprinkle of paprika
- butchers twine
FOR THE GRAVY
- drippings from the turkey , strained of fat
- 2 900 mls boxes of chicken broth
- 1/2 cup flour or 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup water
- salt and pepper to taste
Throw the veggies into a roaster pan. Stuff your turkey with stuffing, and truss it up for roasting. Put it into the pan. Rub with olive oil and stuff butter and rosemary under the skin. Season with pepper only, NO SALT.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 mins per pound or until your meat thermometer reaches 175 degrees in the thigh. Baste the turkey every hour or so.
Remove from the oven, remove the stuffing and set aside to keep warm. Tent the turkey with foil to let it rest and keep warm for about an hour. While its resting, make your gravy
FOR THE GRAVY
Discard all the veggies in the roaster. Separate the fat from the drippings of the turkey. Add it back to the roaster and head on medium high. Add 2 boxes of chicken broth.
Mix the flour or cornstarch with the water and make a slurry to add to the gravy. Once you add the slurry, cook for a while and bring to a boil. As it cooks, the gravy will thicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve in a gravy boat.
- Once the gravy and the rest of the dinner is ready and the turkey has been sitting for a while, carve it up and serve to your guests.