New This Month

Spice-Cured Turkey


It may seem like a bit of trouble to brine the turkey, but it is well worth it: This is the best turkey we've ever tasted. If you don't have a stockpot large enough to hold the turkey, you can use a new plastic tub instead. It is helpful to have an extra refrigerator to brine the turkey, as it will take up a lot of space.

  • Servings: 14

Source: Martha Stewart Living, November 2001


For the Brine

  • 4 cups coarse salt
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 leeks, cut into 1-inch pieces and cleaned of all sand
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice
  • 8 cups water

For the Turkey and Gravy

  • One 18- to 20-pound organic turkey
  • Apple-Chestnut Stuffing
  • Spice Butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock


  1. In a large stockpot, combine salt, sugar, carrots, celery, onions, leeks, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, cumin, red-pepper flakes, cloves, and allspice. Add the water, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. The brine needs to cool completely before the turkey is soaked in it: It can be made a day ahead or chilled over an ice bath.

  2. Rinse turkey under cold water; pat dry. Place in stockpot, breast side down. Add brine and enough water to cover. Cover the stockpot, and refrigerate overnight. Remove turkey from brine; drain.

  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fill cavities with stuffing, being careful not to pack too tightly. Secure skin over neck cavity with toothpicks or skewers, and tie legs together with kitchen twine. Rub turkey generously with spice butter, and place on a rack in a roasting pan.

  4. Place in oven, and roast 30 minutes. Baste, rotate pan, and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue basting every 30 to 45 minutes, until temperature taken in thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees. 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Once turkey is well browned, cover with foil, in sections, if necessary to prevent overbrowning. Remove foil for last 30 to 60 minutes, to crisp skin. Allow turkey to rest 30 minutes before carving. While turkey is resting, remove stuffing.

  5. To make gravy, pour liquid from the roasting pan into a gravy skimmer; set aside. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat; deglaze with 1/2 cup apple cider, using a wooden spoon to scrape up bits stuck to the pan. Set aside.

  6. In a small saucepan, combine 3 tablespoons of reserved fat from pan and flour; cook 3 to 4 minutes, until browned. Add reserved apple-cider mixture, stock, and any separated juices from pan. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Serve.

Reviews Add a comment

  • Tanya S
    28 NOV, 2013
    Hands down! the best recipe ever for turkey....I have tried them all. This recipe delivers a moist and flavorful turkey. The spices can seem intimidating at first, yet the combination of seasonings delivers a subtle flavour that is unbeatable. I used a little less salt and the recipe was still fantastic.
  • Ashley Lombardo
    17 NOV, 2013
    It really is the best turkey ever. We make it exactly like the recipe: spice butter, brine, everything. The accompanying apple-chestnut stuffing recipe is the perfect counterpart.
  • KookingKween
    23 NOV, 2011
    Iam having troulbe getting the salt to disolve as it has with other brines I make - any thoughts......
  • Vilmucha
    3 NOV, 2011
    I tried first time this recipe 10 years ago, and have tried some different recipes just to change some new ideas, but I always come back to this one as THE BEST TURKEY RECIPE ever! The flavor and juices are extraordinary, and all people always rate turkey 10. I highly recommend everyone to try and keep this recipe forever. It is always a hit! great turkey.
  • ladyspice
    25 NOV, 2010
    I made the Spice Cured Turkey for Thanksgiving. It was a big hit! Really easy to put together, and well worth the day early prep. The brine makes for a moist flavorful bird, and the spice butter imparts a really wonderful flavor and leads to a wonderfully crispy skin. I will be using this recipe again!
  • ChargergirlDd
    27 NOV, 2009
    I tried this recipe for Thanksgiving and it was the best turkey ever! So tender and tasty. Thanks Martha.
  • jmoncivais
    26 NOV, 2009
    This was my very first turkey, and I loved this recipe. Easy, moist, nice subtle flavor, pretty on the outside... no fuss, great turkey. :)
  • akolterman
    24 NOV, 2009
    This is our Thanksgiving turkey every year since the article was printed. It's FABULOUS! A must have for us.
  • abigailchristine
    21 NOV, 2009
    Any ideas out there on how to make this recipe just for a turkey breast?
  • jjma77yahooco
    15 NOV, 2009
    coarse salt is kosher salt, you can find it at any grocery store.