Roast and brined turkey

Brining a turkey before it’s roasted isn’t common in the UK, but I might give it a try this year. Martha Stewart is my first port-of-call for Christmas inspiration: here’s her instructions for a moist and juice turkey on Christmas Day.

The turkey needs to soak for about 24 hours, so plan accordingly. Soaking the turkey overnight in a solution of salt and water ensures moist results. When you add aromatics to the brine, the resulting roast is also infused with a subtle character all its own. Lining the brining container, whether tub, stock-pot, or bucket, can minimize cleanup, but finding a place for the turkey can require some creative refrigerator rearranging. If there simply isn’t room, place the bagged bird in a cooler, and surround it with ice, replenishing as necessary to keep it at 4 degrees C.
  • Yield Makes enough brine for one 18- to 20-pound turkey

For the brine 

(I’d start this on the 23rd. The turkey needs to marinade 24 hours, and I like to get mine stuffed the morning of Christmas Eve)


  • 7 quarts (28 cups) water
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse salt
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 pounds), patted dry, neck and giblets reserved for stock, liver reserved for stuffing
  • 1 bottle dry Riesling
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme


  1. Bring 1 quart water, the salt, bay leaves, and spices to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Line a 5-gallon container with a large brining or oven-roasting bag (if its a plastic container, forget the bag, there’s no risk of corrosion or taint like a metal container). Place turkey in bag. Add salt mixture, remaining 6 quarts (24 cups) water, and the other ingredients. Tie bag; if turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.


Roasting the Turkey:


    • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus 4 tablespoons, room temperature
    • 1 bottle dry white wine
    • 1 fresh whole turkey (14 to 16 pounds), rinsed and patted dry
    • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
    • Fruit and nut stuffing
    • 5 red onions (about 2 pounds), peeled and quartered
    • Cranberry Glaze
    • Pan Juice Gravy


      On the morning of Christmas Eve

      1. Remove turkey from brine. Discard brine. Pat turkey dry inside and out with paper towels.
      2. Remove both legs and set aside to bone roll and stuff later.
      3. Place turkey, breast side up, on a clean work surface. Fold wing tips under turkey. Season cavity with salt and pepper.
      4. Fill large cavity loosely with 7 to 8 cups stuffing. Tie legs together loosely with kitchen twine. Stuff the turkey neck cavity, fold neck flap under, and secure with a bamboo skewer. Rub turkey with the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, and season with salt and pepper.
      5. Arrange onions in a large, heavy roasting pan. Place turkey on top of onions, breast side up. Cover and keep at 5 degrees (cold garage or bottom of the fridge, if its big enough).
      6. Legs: remove the bones and the tough sinews. Spread the legs out on a board, skin side down, and keeping the meat fairly evenly thick.Spread the legs with stuffing, roll up and tie with string. Wrap in foil and chill until Christmas morning.

      Christmas Morning

      1. Let stand at room temperature for up to 1 hour.
      2. Preheat oven to 220 degrees, with rack in lowest position.
      3. In a large saucepan, melt 1 1/2 cups butter; add white wine. Turn off heat, leaving mixture on top of stove to keep warm. Fold a large piece of cheesecloth into quarters; cut it into a 17-inch, four-layer square. Immerse cheesecloth in wine mixture, and set aside to soak.
      4. Remove cheesecloth from liquid; squeeze lightly, leaving it very damp. Spread it evenly over breast and leg area. Transfer turkey to oven and roast 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 180 degrees. Pour a quarter of the wine mixture over cheesecloth and exposed parts of turkey; continue roasting 2 hours more, basting every 30 minutes.
      5. When all the wine mixture has been used, remove the cheesecloth and discard; continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (avoiding bone) registers 68 degrees. about 40 minutes more.
      6. Brush the turkey with the cranberry glaze, coating completely. Roast turkey 10 to 15 minutes more. Brush turkey again to coat, and continue cooking 10 minutes more to set the glaze (the turkey should register 75 degrees).
      7. Transfer turkey to a carving board; let rest about 30 minutes before carving. Reserve pan juices for preparing gravy.
      8. The legs can either be roasted in their foil parcels in a separate dish, or unwrapped, alongside the turkey in the same roasting pan (add later to avoid overcooking). If they are cooked separately, remove the foil at the end to allow the skin to brown.