Roasted Salt-Brined Turkey

Soaking a turkey overnight in salted water produces a brined turkey that is especially moist and well-flavored. Careful attention to basting, especially during the last hour of roasting, is also essential. 

Roasted Salt-Brined Turkey
Photo: © Maura McEvoy
12 servings



  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 gallon cold water

  • 1 (12-pound) free-range turkey, neck, wing tips, heart, and gizzard reserved for gravy


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 large onion, quartered

  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 2-inch lengths

  • 1 bunch of thyme sprigs (2 ounces)

  • 4 sage sprigs

  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

  • 3 bay leaves

  • 6 thick slices of bacon

  • 1 quart chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth

  • Gravy, for serving


  1. In a large stockpot, dissolve the salt in the cold water. Add the turkey and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry inside and out with paper towels.

  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a small bowl, blend the butter with the orange juice, lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper. Rub the turkey inside and out with the butter. Fill the cavity with the onion, celery, thyme sprigs, sage sprigs, garlic and bay leaves. Truss the bird tightly and transfer it to a rack set in a roasting pan. Arrange the bacon slices over the breast and pour 2 cups of the stock into the roasting pan.

  3. Roast the turkey in the oven for 45 minutes, then baste with 1 cup of the stock. Roast the turkey for 1 1/2 hours longer, basting with the pan juices every 20 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup of stock to the pan and roast the turkey for about 1 hour and 50 minutes longer, basting every 15 minutes with the pan juices. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170°F; if the bacon is very dark, remove it from the breast. Transfer the turkey to a carving board, cover loosely with foil and let rest for at least 20 minutes.

  4. Pour the pan juices into a glass measure or bowl and skim off the fat. Strain the juices into gravy and reheat if necessary. Carve the turkey and serve with gravy.

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