Because we think younger, smaller turkeys are more delicious (and more natural; no steroids or hormones, thank you) we like to limit the number of attendees to our dinner. It's v. exclusive. I suppose the techniques I'm sharing here will also work for a larger bird, but in all honesty, I doubt a 22 pound monster would taste as good as our normal-sized 12 pound bird. That being said, it wouldn't hurt. And maybe you're thinking, "Well, what do you do when too many people show up to your exclusive event?" If the guest list gets out of control, we usually make a second protein (like a beef tenderloin) and stick with a small turkey.
10 to 15 lb. turkey
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 lemon, quartered
1 small onion, halved
1 bulb garlic
handful thyme sprigs
handful rosemary sprigs
brine (adapted from Alton Brown's recipe)
8 cups vegetable stock (two 32 oz. containers)
8 cups water (I just refill the stock containers twice)
½ cup rock salt
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice berries
8 cups ice water
4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
+ any flavorings you like (garlic, mushrooms, herbs)
2 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper, to taste
big plastic bag (brining bag or garbage bag)
large container (or cooler)
thick, strong rubberband
roasting pan with rack
I like to buy natural (hopefully humanely-raised) turkeys that have not been brined or seasoned by the producer in any way. I want to do all the brining and seasoning myself. I like to brine the turkey about 4 to 5 days in advance of the roasting. I used to brine for just 24 to 48 hours but a couple of years ago, I knew I wouldn't have a chance to do it in that timeframe so I did it a little bit earlier and ended up with the moistest, best bird so since that incident, I've been brining the bird for twice the usual in a less-salty brine and it's been amazing.
Before you start, you need to do some prep. Before you start handling the turkey, get your vessel ready. Line your large container with the garbage bag and set it next to the sink. And get the trash close to the sink too.
Next, grab the turkey in its brining bag and place it in the sink. Then, gently remove it from its packaging (I usually just trim the top of the plastic and peel it off the bird) and throw the packaging away immediately in the trash can you've conveniently placed beside you. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey; usually, the giblets are tucked in the top inside of a little paper package and the neck is in the cavity. Set these goodies aside for making the gravy. There is zero need to rinse the turkey or any poultry for that matter. Rinsing accomplishes nothing; actually that's not true. You will accomplish the amazing feat of contaminating your entire kitchen with germs but the turkey itself won't get any cleaner. The water hitting the turkey will likely cause lovely salmonella germs to be sprayed around your sink and then you'll touch the edge of your sink and then touch something else and then touch something else and eventually cross-contaminate your entire kitchen and house.
Place the naked turkey inside of the bag-lined container. Then, gently pour the brine into the container. Use a ladle at first to make sure that the bag doesn't do that thing where it starts off hooked over the edges of the container but all of a sudden dislodges and then brine goes everywhere. Once you're confident that the bag is stable, as is the bird, pick up the whole pot and pour all of the brine over the turkey. Gather up the top of the plastic bag, push out the air, twist the top, and then tie it off with the rubber band. And then, put the whole thing in the fridge (or in your chilly garage, if applicable).
Roast the turkey until the thermometer reads somewhere between 155F and 160F (because of carryover cooking time). Remove the turkey from the oven, cover in foil, and let the turkey rest for 30 minutes. During this time, the turkey will finish cooking and the juices in the bird will be redistributed.
The gravy can be made while the turkey is roasting. Make a broth from the turkey giblets and neck; add water, giblets, and neck to a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to simmer and then let the broth simmer away for an hour. Remove the giblets and neck and then strain the broth to get rid of any icky floaties. I don't like to add the giblets to the gravy (because I give them to my dog), I just like to add shredded neck meat, but you can do as you please.
To make the actual gravy, start with a roux. Add butter to a saucepan over medium-low heat. At this point, you can also add some flavorings, like garlic or mushrooms or any herbs you like and cook for a minute or two until the butter absorbs the flavor of the ingredients. When the butter is melted, whisk in some flour and cook for two minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. Then, slowly whisk in the giblet broth. Bring the gravy to a rolling boil and cook for three minutes to make sure it's fully thickened. Stir in giblet and neck meat, if desired. And that's it; the gravy is done.