A bounty of fresh herbs provides a flavorful roasted bird. This recipe requires refrigerating the brined turkey at least 6 hours or up to 12 hours before cooking (a longer brining time is preferable). Avoid turkeys that list anything other than “turkey” on their ingredient label. But if you’re using a self-basting turkey (such as a frozen Butterball) or a kosher turkey, do not brine in step 1—and check labels carefully for gluten and other allergens. If you want a turkey with extra-crisp skin, refrigerate the turkey, uncovered, 8 to 24 hours in step 2.
Why This Recipe Works
Incorporating a bounty of fresh herbs into a roast turkey provides a flavorful alternative to a plain roasted bird. Adding the herbs seemed straightforward, but it was not easy to get their flavor to go more than skin deep—and the chefs wanted serious herb flavor through and through. They first brined the turkey to infuse the meat with salt and moisture; then, to ensure crisp skin, they dried and refrigerated the turkey, uncovered, 30 minutes. To add intense herb flavor, they spread a potent herb paste on and beneath the skin of the turkey and inside its cavity, but the deepest flavor infusion came from cutting two pockets into the breast and rubbing them with more of the paste. This created an attractive swirl of herbs in every slice. The chefs ensured the turkey would roast evenly by starting it breast side down in a V-rack and flipping it partway through, giving the slow-cooking dark meat extra exposure to the pan’s heat during the last hour or so in the oven. A 45-minute rest redistributed the juices.
Recipes and photographs reprinted with permission from How to Roast Everything: A Game-Changing Guide to Building Flavor in Meat, Vegetables and More from the editors at America’s Test Kitchen.Yields 12 servings
- 1 cup salt
- 1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey, neck and giblets discarded
- 1¼ cups chopped fresh parsley
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
- 1½ teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ¾ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1For turkey and brine, dissolve salt in 2 gallons cold water in large clean container. Submerge turkey in brine, cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 12 hours.
2Remove turkey from brine and pat dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Transfer turkey, breast side up, to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, 30 minutes.
3For the herb paste, pulse parsley, shallot, thyme, garlic, sage, rosemary, pepper, lemon zest and salt in food processor until coarse paste is formed, about 10 pulses. Add olive oil and mustard and continue to pulse until mixture forms a smooth paste, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula after 5 pulses. Transfer herb paste to bowl.
4Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a V-rack with heavy-duty aluminum foil and poke several holes in foil. Set V-rack in roasting pan and spray foil with vegetable oil spray.
5Transfer turkey to a large cutting board. Using your fingers or handle of spoon, gently loosen the skin covering the breast, thighs and drumsticks. Place 1½ tablespoons herb paste under the skin of each side of breast. Gently press on the skin to distribute paste over the breast, thigh and drumstick meat.
6Using a sharp paring knife, cut a 1½-inch vertical slit into the thickest part of each side of breast. Starting from the top of the incision, swing the knife tip down to create a 4- to 5-inch pocket within the flesh. Place 1 tablespoon herb paste in each pocket; using your fingers, rub the paste in a thin, even layer.
7Rub 1 tablespoon herb paste inside the turkey cavity. Flip the turkey breast side down; apply half of remaining herb paste to turkey skin; flip turkey breast side up and apply remaining herb paste to skin, pressing and patting to make paste adhere; reapply herb paste that falls onto cutting board. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck wings behind back.
8Place the turkey, breast side down, on prepared V-rack. Roast turkey in preheated oven 45 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Using 2 large wads of paper towels, rotate turkey breast side up. Continue to roast until breast registers 160°F and thighs register 175°F, 50 minutes to 1 hour longer. Transfer turkey to carving board and let rest 45 minutes. Carve turkey and serve.