Saturday 21 December 2013

Day 9 — Honey-brined Herb-Roasted Turkey Recipe

With only four days to go to Christmas, we've reached day nine of my 'Twelve Days of Christmas' food countdown. Today we reach the main course, the turkey.

Indeed, no Christmas meal would be complete without the ubiquitous turkey, so in my run-up to Christmas I simple had to provide a recipe. However, turkey can sometimes be a rather dry meat, and brining is an excellent way of keeping your turkey moist and succulent. For best results, the turkey should be kept submerged in the brine for at least 18 to 24 hours before cooking.

Here is a classic method of getting perfectly moist and well flavoured turkey meat for your Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, using a traditional brining method.

Here you can find a link to all my Twelve Days of Christmas (and all the other Christmas) recipes published on this blog... a true treasure-trove of seasonal dishes.

Honey-brined Herb-Roasted Turkey

Serves: 12
Honey-brined Herb-Roasted Turkey Recipe: A classic method of achieving a perfectly moist and flavourful turkey by marinating in a honeyed brine and roasting with mixed herbs. Shown served on a plate with a parsley garnish.


1 fresh whole turkey (or 1 whole frozen turkey, thawed)
10l (10 quarts) water
400g (2 cups) sea salt
250ml (1 cup) honey
4 tsp coarsely-ground black pepper
12 garlic cloves, peeled
2 red finger chillies, halved lengthways (optional)
2 bunches fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh sage
1/2 bunch fresh marjoram
1l (4 cups) chicken stock
3 lemons
4 tsp olive oil


Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey body cavity (reserve these for gravy). Rinse the turkey with cold, running, water then pat dry with kitchen paper.

Combine the water, honey and salt in a large bowl or stockpot, stirring until the honey has completely dissolved. Add half the thyme, sage and marjoram, along with the garlic, black pepper and chillies (if using). Finally mix in the chicken stock.

Line a large pot with a plastic bag that's suitable for food (a roasting bag or large freezer bag is ideal). Sit the turkey inside then pour over the brine. Gather the ends of the bag and twist so that the bag closes tightly around the turkey, causing the bird to be completely enclosed in the brine. Seal the end of the bag then refrigerate in the pot over night (a minimum of 12 hours, and 18 to 24 hours for best results).

After this time, remove the turkey from the bring and pat dry with kitchen paper. Arrange the turkey, breast side up, on a rack set in a large, shallow, roasting tin.

Squeeze the juice from the lemons into the body cavity of the turkey then sit the squeezed lemon halves inside along with the remaining herbs.

Lightly coat the turkey with cooking oil then season with salt and black pepper.

Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 170ºC (350ºF) and roast for 40 minutes per kg (18 minutes per pound), or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey leg registers 82ºC (180ºF). If you do not have a thermometer, then the juices of the thigh and breast should run clear when pressed, and a carving fork when inserted into the meat should feel hot when touched against your lower lip. During the cooking time cover the bird loosely with kitchen foil and baste bird every 30 minutes either with the pan juices or with chicken stock.

Remove the foil for the final 90 minutes of cooking to ensure that the skin is nicely covered.

When done, remove the turkey from the oven and transfer to a cutting block. Cover tightly with foil and allow to rest for about 20 minutes before carving.

For more information and guides to roasting times and temperatures for all kinds of meat, take a look at the Celtnet Ultimate Guide to Roasting page.

To accompany this turkey recipe, tomorrow I will be publishing recipes for Crockpot Stuffing and Cranberry Relish on this blog. On Monday I will have recipes for two accompaniments: Spicy Honey-roasted Sweet Potatoes and Spicy Braised Red Cabbage. This is rounded off by my recipe for Hasselback Potatoes. And for dessert there is yesterday's recipe for Microwave Christmas Pudding, which you still have time to prepare, even on Christmas today.

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