Brining your turkey in beer is a stellar idea. Not only does the beer tenderize the turkey but it makes for delicious subtle flavor addition. We smother it in herb butter for added flavor and that perfect crispy skin.
Oh my gosh let’s talk about this. Turkey=So. intimidating.
I was nervous and excited to finally tackle this project (and super glad no one was coming over to my house that night to eat).
Let’s start off with the basics: We need a defrosted bird. A tender juicy bird. Nice yummy crispy skin. And a fully cooked bird.
One at a time:
#1 A fully defrosted bird
You need to fully defrost your turkey. Be sure to give enough time for this. I did a cold water bath for several hours (changing water every 30 minutes) and then put mine in the fridge for 24 hours the first time. The second time I just left it in the fridge for 3 full days. This was for a 12 pound turkey (A SMALL TURKEY) so be sure to calculate here how long yours will take.
#2 A tender juicy fully cooked bird.
The secret to this in my humble opinion is brining. With beer if you can.
Brining forces the meat to absorb water and salt into itself which allows you to cook the turkey until the dark meat is cooked without drying out the white meat. Adding beer to the mixture is perfect because alcohol is a natural tenderizer.
Just to be curious and see if this really did make a difference we roasted two turkeys, one brined with our beer/salt/sugar solution and one straight out of the fridge. We treated them exactly the same and hands down the brined turkey won in terms of flavor and moisture content. Yay for beer!
You will need a bucket to submerge your turkey in and enough fridge space to handle the bucket. We used one of our large brewing buckets (available at homebrew shop) which was overkill in terms of space for our turkey. These brining bags look super handy. Or you can totally use an ice chest with a frozen gallon of water in it to keep it at a cool enough temperature (40 degrees or cooler). I had read that using a metal container was not advisable but see lots of photos of folks doing it in their giant stockpots. I cannot comment to advisability of that route (I read it could leach metal).
For my 12 pound turkey it took 2 gallons of water plus 4 (12 ounce) Worthy Brewing Lights Out Stouts to submerge it.
#3 Crispy skin.
My secrets for this are:
A) Boiling Water
A little known trick from food stylists involves pouring boiling water over poultry to help tighten the skin. This makes them prettier to look at and….turns out it makes them pretty darn delicious too!
It’s also ridiculously fun to watch the skin tighten right up as you do this so be sure to grab the kids/hubby/friends before you start.
I put the roasting rack right in the sink so the water just drains away (be sure to scrub your sink good afterwards!)
B) Herb butter
What isn’t better with butter? Fresh herbs and a stick of butter get slathered all over this baby.
#4 A fully cooked bird.
My secrets are:
A) Don’t Stuff It
Emotions have a way of coming out even when you repress them. Stuffing gets cooked separately. It just makes this whole thing work better. It slows the cooking of your turkey down and can harbor bacteria if it is not all the way cooked. Instead….drizzle some of the turkey drippings on top of the stuffing when it is finished.
B) Stop Opening The Oven!
The first time we cooked the turkey I hovered over it. I checked it. I prodded it. I tented it with foil. I worried. I KEPT OPENING THE DOOR. It took FOREVER.
Now we put it in and ignore it for WAY less time. It’s really that easy.
I do not baste as I see no reason to continually open the oven door and bring down the temperature.
C) Don’t Overcook It
Please….buy a digital thermometer. They are $10. You need one.
The food safety guidelines call for a temperature of 165 degrees. Not 180 degrees! Stick that turkey in the thigh with the thermometer and don’t touch the bone, easy peesy. You can aim for a few degrees under too since it will continue to rise some as it rests.
D) Let It Rest
20 minutes minimum covered loosely in foil up to 40 minutes for a big turkey (don’t tighten the foil or you will steam the skin). Use this time to get all your other dishes piping hot in the oven and any last minute tasks (like making gravy with all those delicious buttery drippings).
There you have it. All my tips and tricks to make this years turkey a knock out of the park.
- 1 (12 pound) Turkey
- 2 gallons water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 4 (12 ounce) cans stout (I used Worthy's Lights Out Stout)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, room temperature
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
- 4-6 leaves fresh sage, minced
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
- 4 sprigs fresh oregano, minced
- Thaw turkey completely in fridge or with cold water bath, changing water every 30 minutes.
- Combine salt and brown sugar with several cups of water from the 2 gallons into a saucepan. Heat, stirring continually until salt & sugar are completely dissolved into water.
- Pour the solution into the brining bucket and add remaining water (if using a bag be sure to cool solution first so you don't melt it). Add beers.
- Remove giblet bag from neck cavity of turkey (often tucked up under a flap of skin) and the neck from carcass cavity (reserve all for gravy).
- Submerge turkey in brine and soak, chilled, for 12-24 hours. (Turkey must be completely submerged. Increase brine if needed.)
- Boil teapot of water.
- Rinse turkey thoroughly and place on roasting rack in sink. Truss legs if desired.
- Pour hot water all over turkey evenly. Dry thoroughly with paper towel.
- Mix herbs and butter together. Using hands rub herb butter all over turkey skin evenly.
- Cook turkey at 350 degrees for 1½ hours, reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook until turkey reaches 165 degrees in the deepest part of meat (see turkey bag for approximate times for bird size). My 12 pound bird took 2 hours 45 minutes total. If you notice excessive browning on legs or wings they can be tented with foil.
- Remove turkey from oven and tent with foil (do not seal or you will steam skin to rubbery). Allow to rest for 20-40 minutes (depending on size).
- Reserve drippings for turkey gravy.