Lemon and Herb-Brined Roasted Turkey

Lemon and Herb-Brined Roasted Turkey

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Last year I hosted my very first Thanksgiving Dinner at our house. Just a small dinner with our daughters and their families. So, at age 55, I began searching for turkey recipes. Yes, I have roasted turkeys before — the very simple kind, rubbed with butter and roasted in a plastic baking bag. But for this first Thanksgiving Dinner, I wanted to do something extra special to the turkey. With my eldest daughters’ urging, I decided on a Lemon and Herb-Brined Roasted Turkey.

This easy brine recipe will produce a tender and deliciously moist turkey, sure to please everyone at your Thanksgiving Dinner Table!

My First Thanksgiving Dinner

Samantha, our oldest daughter bakes turkey all the time. It’s her husband’s favorite meal, and his favorite pie is pumpkin! So, it makes sense that she would be well rehearsed for a Thanksgiving Dinner. I, on the other hand, have a husband who actually doesn’t care much for turkey, doesn’t like dressing, and pumpkin pie is not his favorite. Do you see the picture I’m painting for you?

In the weeks leading up to Turkey-Day, I searched and searched recipes online for making a turkey. Fried turkeys, smoked turkeys, turkeys baked in paper bags. It seemed the options were endless. The brined turkey option seemed the best fit for my circumstances, and of course, Samantha (our oldest daughter) was highly encouraging. Plus, she said she’d help me with it. Even better!

 

Ingredients for Lemon and Herb-Brined Roasted Turkey

  • hot water
  • kosher salt
  • brown sugar
  • onion
  • lemons
  • garlic
  • bay leaves
  • fresh thyme
  • fresh rosemary
  • black peppercorns
  • whole turkey (14-16 pounds)
  • softened butter
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • herbs and pomegranate seeds for garnishing (optional)

For this recipe you’ll also need a Turkey Baking Bag. 

 

Instructions for Making This Recipe

Prepare the Ingredients

Follow thawing instructions for the turkey, based on turkey weight. Remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey and save for making gravy and dressing.

The rule of thumb for safely thawing a turkey in the refrigerator is 24 hours for every 5 pounds of frozen turkey. So,  for a 20 pound turkey, you’d want to allow 4 full days of thawing time. A 14-16 pound turkey would need 3 days.

Using a sharp knife and cutting board, slice the onion into large chunks. Cut lemons in half.

Peel one head of garlic and break cloves apart.

 

Make the Brine

Ingredients for Lemon Brine

In a large stockpot or container, combine the hot water, kosher salt, and brown sugar. Stir together with a long-handled spoon until dissolved. Add in the prepared onion, lemons, garlic cloves, bay leaves, fresh thyme and rosemary, and black peppercorns.

15 pound thawed frozen turkey

Place the fresh or thawed frozen turkey in the stockpot or large container. I used my large stockpot, but you might also use an ice chest if your turkey is too large.

Make sure that whatever vessel you use to brine the turkey will fit in your refrigerator. In my case, it was cold enough outside that I just set my stockpot in our large ice chest. Then we set this out on our porch, as I did not have room for it in my refrigerator.

Add enough cold water to cover the turkey by 2-3 inches. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

 

Roast the Turkey

When it’s time to roast the turkey, preheat oven to 350 degrees, setting the rack on the lower third of the oven.

Place Lemon, Onions, Garlic, and Herbs inside Turkey Cavity

Remove the turkey from the brined mixture and then drain the brine into a colander to catch the lemon, onions, garlic, and herbs. Place these collected items inside the cavity of the turkey.

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Tie ends of the turkey legs with kitchen twine and tuck wing tips.

Spread softened butter under the skin of the turkey breast and spread olive oil all over the the top and bottom of the turkey. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the turkey inside a plastic turkey-sized baking bag that has been coated with all-purpose flour as per bag instructions. See Reynold’s Baking Oven Guide Here. Tie down bag and snip air holes as instructed. Place bag in a large roasting pan with a wire rack in the bottom of the pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 2-2 1/4 hours, until a meat thermometer reads at least 165°F in several places not touching the bone, and 180°F for the dark meat. The turkey skin should be a deep golden brown when done.

This baking time is based on a 14-16 pound unstuffed turkey, so if you are baking a larger bird or stuffing it with dressing, please use baking oven guide above. 

Carving the Turkey

Transfer turkey to a cutting board and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving. Strain drippings from bag and use to make gravy. Once carved, cover with aluminum foil to keep warm until ready to serve.

Serving Roasted Turkey for my First Thanksgiving Dinner

Serve on a large platter. If desired, garnish with herbs and pomegranate seeds. This recipe will serve 10-12 people.

Wine Recommendation – For your Thanksgiving dinner I recommend Chardonnay by Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena. 

See more Main Dishes Here. Browse Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas Here. 

 

Recipe for Lemon and Herb-Brined Turkey

Lemon and Herb-Brined Roasted Turkey

Here's an easy brine recipe to use when you make your Thanksgiving Turkey for tender and deliciously moist meat, sure to please everyone at your dinner table!
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Reynold's Baking Bags, Thanksgiving Dinner, Whole Turkey
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Brining Time:: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 12

Equipment

Stainless Colander
Turkey Baking Bag
Roasting Pan with Rack
Digital Thermometer

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 3 large lemons halved
  • 1 head garlic peeled and separated
  • 3 whole bay leaves
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 oz fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 15 pound whole turkey 14-16 pounds
  • 1/3 cup butter softened
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • herbs and pomegranate seeds for garnishing optional

Instructions

Prepare the Ingredients

  • Follow thawing instructions for the turkey, based on turkey weight. Remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey and save for making gravy and dressing.
  • The rule of thumb for safely thawing a turkey in the refrigerator is 24 hours for every 5 pounds of frozen turkey. So,  for a 20 pound turkey, you'd want to allow 4 full days of thawing time. A 14-16 pound turkey would need 3 days.
  • Using a sharp knife and cutting board, slice the onion into large chunks. Cut lemons in half.
  • Peel one head of garlic and break cloves apart.

Make the Brine

  • In a large stockpot or container, combine the hot water, kosher salt, and brown sugar. Stir together with a long-handled spoon until dissolved. Add in the prepared onion, lemons, garlic cloves, bay leaves, fresh thyme and rosemary, and black peppercorns.
  • Place the fresh or thawed frozen turkey in the stockpot or large container.
    I used my large stockpot, but you might also use an ice chest if your turkey is too large.
  • Add enough cold water to cover the turkey by 2-3 inches. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

Roast the Turkey

  • When it's time to roast the turkey, preheat oven to 350 degrees, setting the rack on the lower third of the oven.
  • Remove the turkey from the brined mixture and then drain the brine into a colander to catch the lemon, onions, garlic, and herbs.
    Tuck these collected items inside the cavity of the turkey.
  • Pat the skin of the turkey dry with paper towels. Tie ends of the turkey legs with kitchen twine and tuck wing tips.
  • Spread softened butter under the skin of the turkey breast and spread olive oil all over the the top and bottom of the turkey. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Place the turkey inside a plastic turkey-sized baking bag that has been coated with all-purpose flour as per bag instructions. Tie down bag and snip air holes as instructed. Place bag in a large roasting pan with a wire rack in the bottom of the pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 2-2 1/4 hours, until a meat thermometer reads at least 165°F in several places not touching the bone, and 180°F for the dark meat. The turkey skin should be a deep golden brown when done.
  • Transfer turkey to a cutting board and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving. Strain drippings from bag and use to make gravy. Once carved, cover with aluminum foil to keep warm until ready to serve.
  • Serve on a large platter. If desired, garnish with herbs and pomegranate seeds. This recipe will serve 10-12 people.

Notes

*For this recipe you'll also need a Turkey Baking Bag. 
**This baking time is based on a 14-16 pound unstuffed turkey, so if you are baking a larger bird or stuffing it with dressing, please use baking oven guide above.
***Unless otherwise indicated, all butter used on this recipe site is salted.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 761kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 88g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 303mg | Sodium: 10324mg | Potassium: 1042mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 531IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 104mg | Iron: 5mg
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