WOW your guests with this delicious Holiday Turkey Recipe. The brine preperation & lemon butter rub will make your guests ask you how you got your turkey SO juicy & flavourful.
The Ultimate Holiday Turkey Recipe
If you follow me on Instagram then you likely know that recently, Jeremy cooked up a turkey.
For the last few years, he has randomly made us a turkey (I mean, it does give you TONS of leftovers) without a holiday or occasion deeming it necessary.
The turkey is always so incredibly delicious. That’s why I asked if he’d share his brine and turkey cooking secrets here.
Say Hello to Jeremy, the Chef of our house!
Jeremy is definitely the cook out of the two of us.
While I love baking, and sometimes can get really into cooking, I definitely am not quite as passionate about food as he is. He loves it, and it shows.
When we first were together 11 years ago, I remember even on one of our very first dates that he just loved cooking so much.
He whipped us up a red Thai curry dinner and it was delicious. I remember even then I was impressed with how much he knew about food, cooking, and flavors.
Since then, cooking and food has been something he has continued to educate himself on and enjoy. Nearly every Christmas and Birthday he gets something cooking-related because it’s absolutely his #1 passion. Well, that and golf.
Most recently, he was given a Sous Vide which he is super excited to begin testing out on new recipes – so make sure you subscribe now to see those recipes coming soon!
Once You Brine, You Never Go Back!
A few years ago, we decided to have a traditional holiday dinner with some of our friends. We whipped up a turkey, some mash potatoes, and a green bean casserole – and it was delicious.
Now, mind you, we did not time our dinner very well. Rather than cook the turkey in the oven, we cooked our turkey on the BBQ using a rotisserie. Since we hadn’t cooked a turkey before, we didn’t really understand just how long it would take to cook a turkey this way. So, we ended up dining at about midnight.
This was the first time that we had ever made a turkey, and we had brined our turkey for 24 hours. It was the tastiest, juiciest, and most flavourful turkey we had ever had. It was a major hit.
While that dinner wasn’t timed the best, it was fantastic – and it totally inspired us to hopefully one day master making a great holiday dinner. And, since it seemed like we had the flavour down all we really needed to work on was our timing!
What Do You Need to Brine a Turkey
The only “tool” you need is a large pot. Something big enough to hold a big ol’ turkey. This can be tricky to find – and large pots can be expensive.
But, if you’re just using this pot for brining then keep in mind that the pot doesn’t have to be super heavy duty or expensive since it won’t come in contact with any heat.
We found ours at Canadian Tire.
Are Any Other Tools Needed for this Turkey Recipe?
For the brine, you need a large stock-style pot.
Then, to cook the turkey you’ll need a roasting pan, preferably one that has a lift in it so that the under-part of the pan can catch the drippings without the turkey soaking in them while it cooks.
You will also want a cooking thermometer to check the temperature of your turkey. Lastly, a carving knife will help you easily carve and serve your turkey.
What Does Brining Do?
You know how turkey and chicken can sometimes be a little… dry? Well, that’s because as you cook it the moisture in it evaporates.
When a turkey/chicken sits in a brine (ie. a salty bath) it absorbs the salt and extra moisture which helps the turkey retain more water during cooking. This is because all that salt attracts water and keeps it in the turkey.
Apple Cider Vinegar
How Long Should You Brine Your Turkey?
In general, you want to let your turkey soak in the brine for 24 – 48 hours. We let ours sit for 48 hours just to get it extra flavourful.
How’s It Taste?
Pretty darn amazing if I do say so myself!
It tastes juicy, well seasoned, and full of flavour. It’s the kind of turkey you’ll be excited to have leftovers of to enjoy day after day.
What do you fill the cavity of the turkey with?
Before placing your turkey in the oven, first season it with salt and pepper.
Then, inside the turkey cavity you put two onions, cut into halves, and two lemons that are also in halves.
Add in a handful of parsley, sage, rosemary, and two bay leaves.
Add Another Level of Flavour: Lemon Herbed Butter
Queue the drool emoji!
Jeremy says the lemon herbed butter is an absolutely essential step to making a delicious and flavourful turkey. And, it only takes just a few quick minutes to whip up so don’t let this extra step intimidate you!
Once the lemon herbed butter is prepared, you will rub it underneath the skin of the turkey breasts and then also on the surface of the skin all over. By rubbing the butter underneath the skin, the turkey breasts stay moist.
Typically, the turkey breasts tend to be the first spot that dries out because they are the leanest part and they also sit on top of the turkey which exposes them to the most heat. So this butter just adds a bit of extra moisture and flavour into this area to keep it tender and yummy!
- 2 Gallons of Water
- 2 Tbsp Peppercorn
- 2 Lemons
- 2 Cups of Salt
- 1 Bulb of Garlic
- 1 Large Onion
Lemon Herb Butter Ingredients
- 1 Cup of Soft Butter
- Small Handful of Fresh Parsley
- 2 TBSP of Fresh Squeezed Lemon (1 Lemon)
- Tsp Lemon Zest
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- 2 Onions
- 2 Lemons
- Handful of Fresh Parsley
- Handful of Fresh Sage
- Handful of Fresh Rosemary
- 2 Bay Leaves
- Add 2 gallons of water into your large pot (Give or take. Make sure you leave enough room in your pot for the turkey!)
- Next, add the peppercorn, lemon, salt, garlic, and onion.
- To speed up the salt dissolving, heat your pot on the stove and stir.
- Once the salt has dissolved, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down again.
- Once at room temperature place your turkey in the brine mixture. Top it up with cold water until the turkey is fully submerged.
- Add some ice to your brine mixture.
- Then place in the fridge or outside (if cold enough) for 24 - 48 hours. Only keep your turkey brine outside if the temperature will never go above 4-degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lemon Herb Butter Recipe
- Add 1 cup of soft butter into a mixing bowl.
- Roughly chop the parsley and add.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add lemon juice and zest.
- Add finely minced or crushed garlic.
- Mix together. You may need to use your hands.
- After 24 - 48 hours of brining your turkey, remove it from the brine.
- Preheat your oven to 425 Fahrenheit (215 Celsius)
- Hold the turkey up on a large roasting pan, cavity side up. If the giblets and neck are inside the cavity, remove them and place them aside.
- Season with salt and pepper inside the cavity.
- Add the halved onions and lemons. (You can leave the skin on both)
- Add the herbs and bay leaves into the cavity
- Ensure all ingredients are placed firmly inside the cavity and that nothing will fall out.
- Lay the turkey down (with the turkey breasts up) on your roasting pan
- Now rub your lemon herb butter under the skin of the turkey. To get the butter underneath the skin you will have to carefully work the skin away from the turkey breast meat with your fingers. Be careful not to rip the skin.
- Then, you will rub the remaining butter all over the top of the skin of the turkey.
- If you have butchers twine, use it to tie the drumsticks together to ensure the stuffing stays inside the turkey. Jeremy also likes to cover the ends of the drumsticks in tinfoil so that they do not burn or overcook in the oven.
- Add a few cups of water to the bottom of your roasting pan. It also helps keep everything moist while the turkey cooks.
- Now, place your turkey in the oven and allow to cook for 45 minutes at 425 degrees.
- Then, remove it from the oven and baste the turkey with the liquid in the bottom of your roasting pan.
- Now turn your oven down to 350 degrees.
- Place your turkey back into the oven and cook again for another 45 minutes.
- Every 45 minutes you will want to remove your turkey and baste it with the drippings, then place it back in the oven to cook again. Repeat until the turkey is fully cooked. Our turkey was 16LBs and it took about 3.5 hours to fully cook. Use a thermometer in the meatiest part of the turkey thigh. When it shows 180 degrees that's when you'll know your turkey is fully cooked. Another rule of thumb is that the turkey will take about 30 minutes of cooking time per kilogram.
- Once cooked, remove your turkey from the oven and allow it to rest for 2 hours (uncovered)
- Now it's time to carve and serve your turkey. I recommend serving it with gravy made from the turkey drippings.
- This recipe is for a 16LB Turkey.
- Save the turkey drippings to create your gravy
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 128 Total Fat: 12g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 31mg Sodium: 14335mg Carbohydrates: 6g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 2g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 1g
Looking for sides to serve up with your turkey? Try these out!
And for dessert? How about these: