The Great Thanksgiving Countdown

I love Thanksgiving for so many reasons. But I confess, I can be somewhat of a control freak when it comes to the food. It's not pretty. I used to have a blue binder with recipes, shopping lists, time lines and tips for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. I'm not sure what happened to it, but I suspect foul play. Some day the truth will come out and whoever absconded with my blue binder will be brought to justice. Nancy Grace, are you out there? This is a big case.

In the meantime, I am attempting to recreate that folder and sharing it here. Because really if you haven't started your preparations, you are behind! What are you doing reading blogs when there is so much to do?

As you are making your preparations, I highly recommend that you brine and then roast your turkey. Two tips for you from a couple of mishaps that I have, um, heard of, yes, that's it... I heard these things might happen.

First, clean your oven. If you have any debris in your oven, it will smoke at 500 degrees. A lot. As in people will be running from your home coughing and covering their ears from the blaring smoke alarms. Now, some of you might think you'll clean your oven today, one week early. Fine. But I wait until after I have baked my pies because I can't ever manage to bake a pie without spilling. Even when I put a cookie sheet underneath. It's an amazing talent that I have.

Second, when you discard your brine? Don't dump it down the sink. Allspice berries and peppercorns will jam up your garbage disposal. Imagine picking out individual allspice berries and peppercorns from beneath the blades of your garbage disposal all while trying to look accomplished and in control in the kitchen in front of guests - the same guests who unbeknownst to them will be fleeing from your smoke-filled kitchen coughing and sputtering in mere minutes. It's not a great start to the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.

Brined Roast Turkey
Based on Alton Brown's recipe
For the Brine:
1 gallon vegetable broth
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbs peppercorns
1 tbs allspice berries

For the Roasting:
1 cup water
1 apple, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
4-5 sprigs of rosemary
4-5 sage leaves
canola oil
14-16 lb turkey (not a self-baster or injected variety)

If your turkey is frozen, you'll need to start thawing him out about 3 days before the big day. The refrigerator is the safest way to do this.

Now the day before roasting, combine the broth, salt, sugar, peppercorns and allspice in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir boiling for about 3 minutes until all the salt and sugar is dissolved. Remove the brine from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled, refrigerate the brine.

On the evening before roasting, you'll want to get the bird in the brine as you are aiming for 12 hours of brine time. A super clean cooler is what you'll need to brine the turkey. After the cooler has been cleaned, line it with a heavy duty garbage bag. Combine the refrigerated brine and the gallon of ice water in the cooler. Place your completely thawed and clean turkey with all the innards removed breast side down inthe brine. Put the lid on the cooler and let the brine work its magic for 12 hours, turn the bird one time about halfway through the brine time.

For the Roasting:
1. Heat your oven to 500 degrees. Make that your CLEAN oven, okay?
2. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well, inside and out. Do not dump your brine down the disposal, remember?
3. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the apple, onion, cinnamon and water and microwave about 5 minutes. Pour that into the turkey cavity (yuck, right) and add rosemary and sage.
4. Lightly coat the turkey with canola oil and place in oven for 30 minutes. Now people in your kitchen might swear you are crazy. There will be whispers in the living room that you have no idea what you are doing. Stay strong. This works. I made this turkey exactly this way when my husband and I were first dating. In front of his mother. He married me days later. Need I say more?
5. Put your thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey breast and reduce temperature to 350 degrees. I will neither confirm nor deny that I once forgot to reduce the temperature and Thanksgiving disaster did or did not occur.
6. Roast turkey until your thermometer reads 155 degrees. With a turkey this size, that should be around 2-1/2 hrs.
7. Remove the turkey and cover loosely with foil (tightly foiling will create steam which will wilt that perfectly crisp skin). Let rest at least 15 minutes before carving.


  1. I have never brined a turkey before and I am so excited to do it this didn't mention anything about what type of pan to use, should I use a roaster with or without a rack...should I baste the turkey...I have NEVER roasted a turkey before but I DO swear by the turkey family is going to be pleased this year that the turkey wasn't cooked in a bag but rather the "traditional" way. Thanks for the advice and the recipe Michelle, I hope you and your family have a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving <3 :0)

  2. Oh Kris, you will LOVE it. You don't need to baste and I do use a roasting pan with a rack. Let me know how it comes out for you! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family as well.